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CADCA Joins MADD in Opposing Initiative to Lower Drinking Age

Despite evidence showing that the 21 minimum drinking age law saves lives, more than 100 college and university presidents have signed on to an initiative that aims to lower the drinking age. CADCA has joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in opposing the initiative and is urging community coalitions across the country to engage college presidents in their prevention efforts, and to write to university presidents and local newspapers.

The news comes as a new survey released this week by Nationwide Insurance shows that 78 percent of adults support 21 as the minimum drinking age and 72 percent believe lowering the drinking age would make alcohol more accessible to youth. According to the new survey, nearly half believe it would increase binge drinking among teens and more than half say they are less likely to vote for a state representative who supports lowering the legal limit or send their children to colleges or universities with “party school” reputations.

Since the 21 drinking age law became uniform among states, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 25,000 lives have been saved. In addition, more than 50 peer-reviewed studies have found that increasing the drinking age significantly lowers alcohol-related fatalities.

“Research clearly indicates that lowering the drinking age will not lead to decreases in alcohol use and abuse rates, but it will almost certainly normalize alcohol use among youth, and exacerbate problems that already exist,” said Gen. Arthur Dean, CADCA Chairman and CEO. “It’s irresponsible to ignore the science and go against a law that has saved so many lives.”

While supporters of lowering the drinking age argue that doing so would result in less alcohol use on campuses, there is no evidence that there was less campus alcohol use when lower drinking ages were in effect. In fact, in 1984 when the drinking age was 18, only 8 percent of high school seniors had never used alcohol in their lifetime. Today, 28 percent of high school seniors report never having used alcohol in their lifetime. Other proponents of lowering the 21 drinking age also argue that other countries with lower drinking ages have less youth alcohol use. However, research shows the contrary. A study by PIRE Prevention Research Center, entitled “Youth drinking rates and problems: A comparison of European countries and the United States,” showed that European kids drink more often, drink more heavily and get drunk more often than American teens.

CADCA believes that lowering the drinking age can negatively impact youth development, since the brain isn’t fully developed until one’s early 20s. In fact, research has shown that alcohol use prior to age 21 can hamper brain development and function.

CADCA is sending a letter to college presidents and state governors explaining the science behind the law and the negative impact that changing the drinking age can have on youth and communities. CADCA and MADD are asking that community coalitions do the same.

Inga Manskopf, Community Coordinator for the Northeast Seattle Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking, which has sent an Op-Ed to their local newspaper editor, said the attempt by college presidents to reverse the minimum drinking age law is merely a way to avoid having to invest in enforcement and prevention efforts.

“It seems to me that college presidents are shirking their responsibility,” she said. “Prevention works if you invest in it and we have scientifically proven ways to prevent underage drinking. Why not put our efforts into that instead of lowering the drinking age.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Send a letter to college presidents. Click here to view CADCA’s letter to college presidents who have signed on to the Amethyst Initiative and for a link to the addresses. Click here for a list of the college presidents and their addresses who have signed on the Amethyst Initiative.

Submit an Op-Ed to your local newspapers. Click here to view a sample Op-Ed that coalitions can use.

Meet with editorial boards of your local media outlets to explain the facts.

Meet with and engage college presidents in your prevention efforts.

CADCA is developing a Support 21 Community Toolkit that will include sample letters, sample agendas for meeting with college presidents, press release templates and fact sheets that coalitions can use to develop a comprehensive campaign against lowering the drinking age. The toolkit will be available on CADCA’s Web site next week.

For more information on the minimum 21 drinking age law, visit MADD’s Web site at: http://www.madd.org/Parents/UnderageDrinking.aspx.

(Taken from www.cadca.org)

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