Thursday, June 2, 2011

Latest News Roundup

There have been several relevant news stories lately, including the following:

1)  Scotland, a constituent country of the United Kingdom with a notorious drinking and violence problem, has officially allowed (and is trying to encourage) certain local authorities to locally ban off-premise alcohol sales to 18-20 year olds, while leaving the on-premise purchase age and overall drinking age at 18.  While some welcome the move, others feel it is a backdoor attempt at a blanket ban on alcohol purchase by 18-20 year olds.  But will Scotland Yard* actually enforce it?

2)  The Indian state of Maharashtra, in which Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is located, has just raised the drinking age to 21 for beer and 25 for liquor.  Previously, it was 18 for beer and 21 for hard liquor.  However, there is one massive loophole that renders it a joke overall:  there is still no age limit for wine, and there never was before either.  As for enforcement, don't hold your breath:  in Delhi, one of the states where the drinking age has been 25 for years, the law is flouted so much that on a busy night, as many as 90% of bar partons are underage.  They simply don't have the resources or political will to do so.  Ditto for the long-standing law in Maharashtra where anyone who buys alcohol is required to have a permit to do so--almost no one bothers to get one.  In fact, it turns out that the age limit on the books for liquor has already been 25 since 1949--but no one seemed to know it until yesterday!  Currently, out of India's 28 states, there are three that set the drinking age at 18 across the board, two that set it at 25 across the board, three which are totally dry for all ages, and the remainder are either 21 across the board or have a split drinking age like Maharashtra.

3)  New Zealand still has yet to raise the drinking age, as was recently proposed.  But a new report by Sir Peter Gluckman may add fuel to the fire, encouraging the country to raise the drinking age to 21.  Don't worry, though--there's nothing in it that we haven't already debunked before.  Before they even think about raising the drinking age from 18 to 21, perhaps they should actually start enforcing the current law and closing its loopholes.

4)  Apparently Baby Boomers (ages 50-65) in the USA are still drinking too much.  You know, the same generation that hypocritcally denied todays young people the same freedom they had when they were younger.  No surprise there.  Of course, there is always that vexing question of whether they drink so much now because they were allowed to drink at 18 and got hooked more as a result.  If so, there may be some slight justification for their hypocrisy.  However, we at Twenty-One Debunked tested that hypothesis ourselves, using alcohol rehab admission statistics from the SAMHDA database from 1992-2008.  Comparing affected age cohorts in the national data does appear to superficially support that hypothesis, but it falls flat when one notices that there was essentially no difference in such patterns between states that kept the drinking age at 21 (such as California and Pennsylvania) throughout versus similar states that changed their drinking ages (such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) as well as the nation as a whole.  This is true for both alcohol-specific cases as well as total cases.  Thus, it appears to be a Boomer effect rather than a law effect, and the hypocrisy is not justified in the least.

We at Twenty-One Debunked feel that any attempt to raise the drinking age in any nation is a fool's errand, and will not solve any drinking problems in the long run.  In fact, the focus on 18-20 year olds can lead a nation to ignore the pink elephant in the room.  There has never been any society where adults drink but teens do not, nor has the reverse ever been true.  It's time to stop scapegoating young people for adult problems.

(*That was a test to see if you are paying attention.  Scotland Yard is the headquarters of the London Police Department, which has nothing at all to do with Scotland itself.)

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