The Drinking Age Debate: What Others Are Saying

Dr. Morris Chafetz, Founder, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

In 1982 I accepted appointment to the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving and agreed to chair its Education and Prevention Committee. The Commission met over the next 18 months and ultimately advanced 39 recommendations to President Reagan, in December 1983. All 39 received unanimous Commission approval. The most conspicuous of those recommendations, and arguably the most controversial, called for raising the minimum legal drinking age to 21 nationwide. I will admit to having had serious reservations about this particular proposal. But in the interest of maintaining unanimity, I reluctantly voted yes. It is the single most regrettable decision of my entire professional career.

Read more of Dr. Chafetz's August 2009 Huffington Post essay here.

George Will, Columnist, Washington Post:

Public policy often illustrates the law of unintended consequences. Society's complexity -- multiple variables with myriad connections -- often causes the consequences of a policy to be contrary to, and larger than, the intended ones. So, when assessing government actions, one should be receptive to counterintuitive ideas.

Read more of George Will's April 2007 column here.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Actress and contributor, The Huffington Post:

I am an alarmed member of the tribe. Here's the conundrum. High school and colleges can't really talk about drinking and counsel about it because it is illegal and it puts them subject to lawsuits if they discuss the safe and moderate consumption of alcohol. That means it is hidden, done in closed rooms, behind doors, to avoid being caught out in the social world with a bottle or cup of beer or liquor. They call it pre-gaming, consuming massive amounts of hard liquor in quick succession before heading out. It saves them money when they can buy liquor at clubs (where they give you little booze for mucho bucks) when they get older and it saves them from being written up at school. Binge drinking is now a nationwide epidemic.

Read more of Jamie Lee Curtis' April 2010 column here.

Malcolm Gladwell, Author and contributor, The New Yorker:

There is something about the cultural dimension of social problems that eludes us. When confronted with the rowdy youth in the bar, we are happy to raise his drinking age, to tax his beer, to punish him if he drives under the influence, and to push him into treatment if his habit becomes an addiction. But we are reluctant to provide him with a positive and constructive example of how to drink. The consequences of the failure are considerable, because, in the end, culture is a more powerful tool in dealing with drinking than medicine, economics, or the law.

Read more of Malcolm Gladwell's February 2010 article here.

Dr. John Tymitz, CEO Emeritus, The Institute for Shipboard Education:

I have spent the past 40 years in teaching and higher education administration, and I am very familiar with the culture of toxic drinking that is so common among young adults today. Over the years, I have heard many supporters of the 21 year-old drinking age argue that we cannot consider alternatives to the law because young adults are too immature and education cannot work. These critics are wrong.

Read more of Dr. Tymitz's essay here.

Glenn Reynolds, Professor of Law, U. of Tennessee/Blogger,

I propose a smaller step toward freedom -- eliminating the federally mandated drinking age of 21. This mandate was a creature of Elizabeth Dole (who is no longer in the Senate to complain at its abolition), and it has unnecessarily limited the freedom of legal adults, old enough to fight for their country, to drink adult beverages. What's more, as the 130 college presidents of the Amethyst Initiative have noted, rather than promoting safety, it has largely created furtive and less-safe drinking on campus.

Read more of Glenn Reynolds' January 2009 Wall Street Journal essay here.

For Young Adults

Choose Responsibility recognizes that you are legally an adult and exists to empower you to speak up and make a difference.

For Educators

Choose Responsibility wants to help you understand and deal effectively with the realities of alcohol in the lives of young adults.

For Parents

Choose Responsibility is here to help you affirm and fulfill your parental role as your sons and daughters become adults.