Local News

Lower Legal Drinking Age Suggested

Posted April 19, 2007 6:50 p.m. EDT

— A retired college president is calling on states to lower the legal drinking age to help curb the problem of underage drinking.

John McCardell, a president emeritus and a history professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, said lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 would remove the taboo status from alcohol for many teens. They could then learn how to drink responsibly at an earlier age, he said.

"Drinking has been forced behind closed doors, underground, and in the case of academic institutions, off campus. There should be no surprise that serious, unsupervised, abusive binge drinking is taking place, creating an enormous health risk," McCardell said.

States nationwide raised the legal drinking age from 18, 19 and 20 to 21 about two decades ago.

Critics of the idea say lowering the drinking age would create more irresponsible behavior, not more responsibility, by teens.

About 5,000 young people die every year in alcohol-related incidents, including homicides and car crashes, according to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.

Five Wakefield High School students, for example, have been killed since March 2006 in alcohol-related crashes.

McCardell also suggested instituting a "drinking license" for teens, similar to obtaining a driver's license.