Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Kids Are (Mostly) Alright

The results of the annual Monitoring the Future survey of middle and high school students for 2014 were primarily good news overall.  Alcohol and tobacco use both dropped to record 40-year lows, and cannabis use saw the first decrease in years after steadily increasing since 2007.  Other drugs, both illicit and prescription, saw either decreases or no significant change in 2014, and most of those remained well below their most recent peaks.  Dangerous quasi-legal synthetic "designer drugs", such as "K2" (synthetic cannabis) and "bath salts", have plummeted to the lowest levels since they have first been measured.  And there was no substance that saw any significant increases in 2014.

One thing that makes such results remarkable is that 2014 was the first year that cannabis was fully legalized in Colorado and Washington, with a few more states on the way as well.  And there is currently zero evidence that any of the prohibitionists' fears have actually materialized.  Another remarkable observation is the fact that "extreme binge drinking" (i.e. 10+ drinks in the same occasion at least once in the past two weeks) among high school seniors has finally dropped to the lowest level since it was first recorded in 2005.  For example, from 2005-2011, it remained flat at 11%, and from 2011-2014 it had dropped to 7%. 

But don't expect to hear such good news from the fearmongering mainstream media, of course.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Let's Make a Deal

Recently, there has been a bit of a push to ban fraternities in various colleges and universities in the hopes of reducing the serious problem of rape among college students, which is often fueled by alcohol.   This debate on whether or not to ban frats is not a new one, but was recently reopened following several scandals on the way several colleges currently (mis)handle the issue of campus sexual assault.  Some people think it is a great idea, while others feel that doing so would be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

So where does Twenty-One Debunked stand on this particular issue?  Well, we should first and foremost note that the only thing that actually causes rape is the rapists themselves, period.   While alcohol (among other substances) can indeed fuel it and is often used as a weapon to incapacitate victims, rape would simply not happen without rapists.  And the onus should always fall on men not to rape in the first place, instead of falling on women not to get raped.  That said, many fraternities are notorious for being a virtual microcosm of rape culture, which consists of the various attitudes and behaviors that support rape in one way or another.  And while removing such groups from the equation would not eliminate rape entirely, it would certainly make a non-trivial dent in the problem, given that frat brothers are statistically about three times more likely to commit rape compared to college men who are non-members.  Interestingly, Greek organizations are mainly an American thing, since most other countries either don't have them at all, or in the case of Canada, they exist in far less prominence than they do over here.  Gee, I wonder why?

Thus, Twenty-One Debunked would basically be fine with banning frats to one degree or another, with the following caveats attached to the deal.  First, the drinking age needs to be lowered to 18 yesterday, and not only would that result in many frats having a "going out of business" party (since their speakeasy-like services will no longer be needed) or at least a reduction in their relative power and prominence, it would also result in at least somewhat safer drinking practices since alcohol would no longer be forced underground anymore.  Second, to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we should allow frats to continue existing if they become fully coed, including their leaders.  It's almost 2015 now, and it's about time!  And if any frats want to remain all-male, they should be able to do so if and only if they exist entirely off-campus and receive absolutely no recognition, endorsement, or privileges from the college, including use of campus facilities.  Do these things and the connection between fraternities and rape would simply wither on the vine rather quickly.

Of course, it should go without saying that the problem of sexual violence is by no means just a frat problem, and broader-based strategies for tackling it also need to be implemented yesterday as well.  We absolutely need to change the culture on this issue (an excellent campaign can be found here), as well as hold the perpetrators (and their accomplices/enablers) accountable regardless of what connections they have or what socioeconomic status they belong to.  And for the record, Twenty-One Debunked fully supports California's new "Yes Means Yes" law for colleges and universities.  Anything less would be uncivilized.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Think Globally, Act Locally

We clearly face an uphill battle to lower the legal drinking age to 18, no doubt about that.  So what can we do in the meantime, besides pressure the government to lower the drinking age?  There is one thing that local communities can do, and that is to effectively "nullify" the 21 drinking age by refusing to enforce it.  A good way to do this would be the following:

  1. The local government should pass its own law declaring its own drinking age to be 18, state laws to the contrary notwithstanding.
  2. Repeal all local social host laws (if any) that pertain to 18-20 year olds.
  3. Declare the possession and consumption of alcohol by 18-20 year olds, and casual furnishing of alcohol to them, to be the lowest law-enforcement priority (LLEP), as long as no other laws are broken at the same time.
  4. Issue "protection passes" to anyone aged 18-20 who lives, works or attends school in that municipality, and make selling alcohol to such people the LLEP as well.  Such passes would effectively enable their holders (and only their holders) to buy alcohol and enter bars in the town.
The "protection pass" idea would help keep outsiders from driving into town to go to the bar, getting drunk, and driving home, since outsiders would lack such passes.  Temporary passes could be given for tourists staying in local hotels, that would last only for the duration of their stay.  Holders of such passes who get busted for DUI, drunk violence, drunk vandalism, or disorderly conduct would lose their passes immediately.

If enough local governments decide to do this, it would only be a matter of time before the drinking age is lowered.  Just look at Denver and Seattle, for example, who made cannabis possession the LLEP long before their respective states decided to fully legalize it.  And as they say, the rest is history.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

21 Turns 30

Thirty years ago this month, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was enacted in July 1984, which coerced the states into raising their drinking ages to 21 by 1987 or lose 10% of their federal highway funding.  While Ronald Wilson Reagan (666) was originally against such a fascist power grab, he was nonetheless  persuaded by Candy Lightner and the rest of MADD to go along with it, and of course 1984 was an election year, after all.  While some states put up a fight and challenged it in the 1987 Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Dole, they lost, and all 50 states and DC eventually capitulated by 1988.  Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, however, decided to keep their drinking age at 18 despite the highway funding penalty, although Guam eventually raised it to 21 in 2010 as well.  And as they say, the rest is history.

So what has changed in the past three decades?  Public opinion sure has not, according to a recent study.  Americans appear to be just as prudish about the issue as they were 30 years ago, with 74% of adults being against lowering the drinking age to 18.  This is what we are up against, people.  However, other things have changed since 1984.  Alcohol-related traffic deaths are way down for a variety of reasons, such as safer cars and roads, tougher drunk driving laws, tougher enforcement, better education, and the fact that drunk driving is no longer anywhere near as socially acceptable as it once was.  Teen drinking is also at a record low as well.  While the pro-21 crowd likes to credit the 21 drinking age for these trends, that argument rings hollow considering that Canada saw similar or greater trends despite NOT raising the drinking age to 21.   Also, several studies cast doubt on the idea that raising the drinking age actually saved any lives, most notably Miron and Tetelbaum (2009), which found that any supposed lifesaving effect was essentially just a mirage all along.  But logic has never exactly been the pro-21 crowd's forte, to put it mildly.  And there is still that ever-popular moral panic about teen drinking these days, undoubtedly due in part to the idea that while young people are drinking less today than they did 30-40 years ago, apparently the more they do when they do.  Or something.  Thus, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So after three decades of the greatest alcohol policy failure since Prohibition, can young Americans FINALLY have their civil liberties back now?  Apparently not, according to the neo-prohibitionists.  FEH.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Have a Safe and Happy Memorial Day!

Today is Memorial Day, often known as the unofficial first day of summer and National BBQ Day.  But let's remember what it really is--a day to honor all of the men and women of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  And that of course includes all of those who died serving our country before they were legally old enough to drink.  Let us all take a moment of silence to honor them.

As for Candy Lightner, the turncoat founder of MADD who had the chutzpah and hubris to go on national TV in 2008 and publicly insult our troops, may her name and memory be forever blotted out.

And as always, arrive alive, don't drink and drive.  It's just not worth it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Happy 5th Birthday, Twenty-One Debunked!

On May 5, 2009, Twenty-One Debunked was born as a spinoff of the True Spirit of America Party, which was founded a month prior.  During the past five years, we have fought tooth-and-nail to lower the legal drinking age to 18 in the USA.  We have presented reams of evidence showing that the 21 drinking age simply doesn't work anymore if it ever really did, and that it is the greatest alcohol policy failure since Prohibition.  And it has been an uphill battle, and one in which we must redouble our efforts if we wish to succeed.

So where do we go from here?  Aside from fighting harder, we can learn a valuable lesson from Prohibition in the 1920s.  In the years leading up to Prohibition, women overwhelmingly supported it, but by 1933, over 70% of women had turned against it, and the rest was history.   We can also observe a similar trend as cannabis prohibition comes to an end--there is even a group now called "Moms for Marijuana".  It seems to be a necessary precursor to change of that sort for women to support such a change.  Yet unfortunately there is no such trend for our movement to lower the drinking age to 18, which is really quite a "sausage fest" it seems.   The majority of women still support keeping the drinking age at 21.  And that needs to change yesterday if we are to win.

We need to get the word out about our movement to women, especially mothers.  Even those who support keeping the drinking age at 21 intuitively know on some level that it has been an abject failure, and we as a movement need to build on that intuition and take the thunder away from the neoprohibitionists like MADD.  We need to address any legitimate concerns that those on the fence may have about young adults and alcohol, and show that these concerns can be better addressed with a drinking age of 18 combined with the other components of our proposal.  And it would also be good if our movement had a mothers' organization that could act as a counterweight to MADD.  If the cannabis legalization movement can do it, so can we.

Let America be America again, and lower the drinking age to 18.  If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar.  'Nuff said.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Case Closed? Not So Fast

A new study by William DeJong claims that the debate on the 21 drinking is over, and that the evidence is overwhelming that the policy saves lives and reduces teen and young adult drinking.  His literature review, titled Case Closed:  Research Evidence on the Positive Public Health Impact of the Age 21 MLDA in the United States, looks at research conducted mostly from 2006 to the present.  While on the surface DeJong's paper appears to be decently written, upon closer examination one can see several flaws that undermine his thesis.

First and foremost, his treatment of Miron and Tetelbaum's groundbreaking 2009 study (which thoroughly debunked the supposed lifesaving effect) is sorely lacking.  He literally devotes a mere two sentences to casually mentioning and blithely dismissing its results.  DeJong seems to think that the reason that the coerced states saw no significant effect while the voluntary-adopting states did was due to enforcement differences and/or cohort or other differences between the two groups of states.  That's very funny considering how Miron and Tetelbaum took great pains to control for just about every conceivable variable that would likely have a significant effect, in addition to state and year fixed effects.  Additionally, even if the handful of voluntary adopters did enforce the 21 drinking age to a greater extent, even they saw that their fairly weak lifesaving effect lasted no more than a year or two following the law change (while it actually seemed to throw gasoline on the fire in many of the coerced states).  Miron and Tetelbaum also found that the effect of raising the drinking age on high school drinking was fairly small, likely due to reporting bias, and basically confined to the voluntary-adopting states.  All of which puts a massive hole in DeJong's theory to say the least.  Strike one.

Secondly, while DeJong does talk a bit about Europe and New Zealand, he does not devote a single word to Canada.  As Twenty-One Debunked has noted repeatedly, Canada saw a similar or faster decline in alcohol-related traffic deaths as the USA despite NOT raising the drinking age to 21.  And while young Canadians do tend to drink a bit more than their American counterparts on average, the rates of "binge" drinking in Canada are roughly equivalent to the demographically and geographically similar US states that they share a border with or are otherwise fairly close to.  Canada also boasts a lower alcohol-related death rate than the USA as well as less crime and violence, and the alcoholism rates in the two countries are roughly equivalent.  That's another huge hole in his theory that cannot be easily explained away.  As for New Zealand, note that we have already debunked the fairly outdated studies that DeJong refers to.  Strike two.

But probably DeJong's biggest flaw of all is his logic or lack thereof.  He claims that the evidence to date supports the idea that not only should we not lower the drinking age, but that enforcement should be toughened.  Leaving aside all the studies that debunk the supposed benefits of the 21 drinking age, his logic is based on shaky ground.  He takes various outdated correlations and presumes them to be causation, he blithely dismisses any evidence to the contrary, and essentially denies that there is any good alternative policy aside from tougher enforcement.  Which is very funny considering how much research (including some of DeJong's own previous research) finds that social norms marketing techniques are at least as effective in reducing high-risk drinking among college students as tougher drinking age enforcement is.  Strike three, yer out!

Unfortunately, DeJong does appear to be right about one thing.  The movement to lower the drinking age to 18 has been losing a great deal of momentum over the past few years, and since about 2011 is now essentially on the back burner once again compared to other, more pressing issues like the economy and of course cannabis legalization.  Scratch that, the movement is now on life support, and the coroner is just waiting to be called.  So we need to redouble our efforts, like yesterday.  And let's hope that DeJong's declaring the debate to be over actually has the opposite effect and re-ignites the drinking age debate once again.  Now let's get to work!

Let America be America again, and lower the drinking age to 18.  If you're old enough to go to war, you're old enough to go to the bar.  'Nuff said.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

FebFast is Here

Similar to last year's 40-Day Challenge, Twenty-One Debunked is participating in the fairly new Australian tradition of FebFast.  To wit, it involves no drinking at all during the entire 28 days of February.  Or one can choose the "half-arsed" option, and go a mere two weeks without drinking.  Just about any drinker would benefit from a good detox period, and the benefits include improved health and energy, a better bank balance, and a better quality of life overall.  As the FebFast folks would say, it's just the tonic for you.

If you have read a previous version of this post, please disregard the second paragraph.  The idea outlined therein was admittedly silly and kind of takes away from the overall mission of Twenty-One Debunked.  I'm sure that anyone who wants to see a cached version will just Google it anyway, but remember that it is no longer the case, and we apologize for such inane logorrhea (i.e. diarrhea of the mouth or keyboard).

Monday, January 20, 2014

What About Weed? (Part Deux)

With the recent legalization of recreational cannabis (for those over 21) in Colorado and Washington, and likely at least a few more states to follow, we at Twenty-One Debunked feel the need to update and clarify our official stance on the cannabis issue.  Previously, Twenty-One Debunked has been officially neutral on the issue of cannabis legalization, with our only position being that if and when it becomes legal, the age limit should be 18 instead of 21.  In the meantime, our affiliated political party, the True Spirit of America Party (TSAP), has always been 100% in favor of legalization.  However, after careful evaluation and deliberation, as of January 2014 Twenty-One Debunked has decided to take up the cause of cannabis legalization as well, albeit as a lower-priority issue relative to our main cause of lowering the drinking age to 18.   Our new stance on cannabis can be delineated as follows:
  • Cannabis should be legal for everyone 18 and older, period.
  • No one of any age should be arrested, jailed, or given a criminal record for simple possession or use of cannabis.
  • Passing around a joint or bong should not be treated any differently than passing around a tobacco cigarette or a bottle of beer.
  • While not completely safe for everyone, cannabis is a safer alternative to alcohol by just about any objective scientific measure, and as harm-reductionists we need to get the word out about that fact.
  • While driving under the influence of cannabis can be dangerous and should remain illegal, drunk driving is much worse, and the penalties should reflect that fact.
  • As with alcohol, blood THC limits for driving should be based on science, not zero-tolerance.
Thus, our new position is identical to the TSAP's longstanding view on the matter, and our creed applies equally to alcohol and cannabis.  As for legalization in states with an age limit of 21, pragmatism unfortunately forces us to part ways with people like Mike Males in that regard.  It would be foolish of us to make the perfect the enemy of the good, and thus we will grudgingly support legalization initiatives with a 21 age limit if that is what it takes to get such initiatives to pass.  There will always be time to lower the age limit to 18 when the dust settles and people begin to realize that cannabis is nowhere near as scary as the drug warriors want us to think.

To all the prohibitionists and drug warriors out there, we have one question for you:  How does it feel to be on the wrong side of history?  Because we wouldn't know anything about that.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Should Bars Set Their Own Drinking Ages?

In response to the latest news about a NYC bar setting a minimum age of 25 for patrons, we at Twenty-One Debunked realize that we haven't been all that clear about whether bars should be allowed to discriminate based on age.  And it's perfectly legal too, believe it or not.  We have mixed feelings about the issue overall, and if the founder of Twenty-One Debunked ever owned a bar, he would not set the age limit any higher than the legal drinking age (whatever it may be at the time).  In principle, it is ageist to do so, and it is far better to crack down on all troublemakers regardless of age and put better safeguards in place for everyone.

However, there are some fairly strong arguments in favor of allowing bars to set a higher age, particularly if the legal drinking age is lowered to 18.  First, it is worth noting in that some countries with a drinking age of 18, such as Sweden, several bars (and especially nightclubs) set an age limit of 20, 23, or even 30 in some cases.  Puerto Rico, with a drinking age of 18, has bars that are 21 to enter as well.  Also, there is anecdotal evidence that when many states lowered the drinking age to 18 in the 1970s, at least some bars lost business (and even went out of business) due to the supposedly rowdy 18-20 year olds flooding the bars and scaring off the older patrons.  The irony of the Brooklyn bar was that the age was raised to 25 because the 21-24 year olds were apparently the ones causing too much trouble, so it seems that raising the legal drinking age to 21 just shifted the problems to a slightly older age group.  Finally, there's the free market argument that private businesses should be allowed to do as they please, within reason of course.  While none of these arguments by themselves are strong enough, when put together they make a rather compelling case in favor of allowing bars to remain free to choose their own minimum ages.  And most importantly, if bars are allowed such freedom, they would be much more likely to get on board with our movement to lower the drinking age since they would not feel "forced" to accomodate "rowdy teenagers" if they don't want to.  So there's a strong argument from practicality as well.

Thus, while Twenty-One Debunked believes that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18, we feel that individual bars should be allowed to choose a higher minimum age if they wish.  And if they did, it would be more likely to be 21 rather than 25, since 21-24 year olds would likely be a lot mellower if they grew up under a drinking age of 18 than if they grew up under the status quo.