Answering Questions About Alcohol
What can you say to people who think teen drinking is not a serious problem?
Despite the statistics and the science, some people still think teen drinking is not a serious problem. Here are some of the more common questions neighbors and friends may ask about teen drinking—and the answers. Please share.
- Q. Wouldn't a lower drinking age allow parents to teach their kids to drink responsibly?
- A. Parents don't have to drink with their children to teach them responsible drinking. Additionally, letting teens drink at home sends the wrong message about appropriate conduct away from home.
- Q. Don't kids binge because they haven't learned to drink when they're living at home?
- A. This question assumes that binge drinking was less common when the legal drinking age was 18 or 19. That assumption is wrong—binge drinking by 12th graders has dropped by 15 percent since 21 was adopted as the national legal drinking age.
- Q. Kids are going to drink anyway. They always have. Isn't it better to hold the party at my house, so my kids and their friends aren't out driving?
- A. It's not your decision to make. Letting other teens drink in your house undermines other parents, and in many states, violates the law. Drunk driving isn't the only danger associated with teen drinking, and you can't guarantee that your teen guests won't drive after they leave your house. Offer non-alcoholic choices rather than another drinking venue.
- Q. If the kids drink when I'm home, I can control what happens. Isn't that the best way to prevent teen injury?
- A. Can you really control what happens? There are too many real stories about teens who are injured from drinking under adult supervision. Giving permission to drink at home also may be interpreted to mean that you approve if they drink with friends when you're not around.
- Q. The legal drinking age in Europe is younger than it is in the U.S. Why don't European kids have alcohol-related problems?
- A. The concept that European teens start drinking at a young age without problems is a myth. A recent National Institutes of Health publication shows that European countries with lower drinking ages have the same teen drinking problems as the U.S., or worse.
- Q. I drank when I was a kid, and I'm okay, so what's the problem with letting teens drink now?
- A. Good thing that you're okay, but many teens are not as lucky. On average, 6.4 American teens die each day from alcohol-related crashes. Teen drinking is associated with long-term alcohol dependence, increased sexual activity, unprotected sex, suicide, smoking, and carrying weapons; in addition, it imposes high financial costs on society.
- Q. I don't believe that the reduction in teen drinking and driving accidents since 1983 is entirely due to the minimum drinking age. There must be more to it.
- A. Seat belt requirements, zero tolerance laws, increased enforcement, and frankly, increased public education and information on the dangers of teen drinking have contributed to the downturn in teen drinking and accidents. However, after careful study, the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that the minimum drinking age law, by itself, has played an important role in reducing both teen drinking and driving after drinking.
- Q. Doesn't a "legal drinking age" just make alcohol "forbidden fruit" that teenagers try harder to get?
- A. If this were true, teen drinking would have increased after adoption of the legal drinking age. It didn't. Having a legal drinking age has substantially reduced drinking by teens. In addition, the drinking habits of 18-year-olds have a big influence on younger teens, particularly those who are 15 to 17.
- Q. If kids can vote and join the military at 18, why do they have to wait until they're 21 to drink legally?
- A. It's the law. In addition, ages of "initiation" vary. You can work at 14, vote at 18 and drink at 21, but you can't run for Congress until you're 25. Researchers who have evaluated the data say the minimum legal drinking age delays the onset of alcohol use. As a result, it reduces drinking-related injuries among teens and the risk of alcohol abuse and dependence later in life.
Don't serve alcohol to teens.
It's unsafe. It's illegal. It's irresponsible.