Archive for July 2009
Today, I was forwarded an article from www.times.com titled, "A Sip Too Far: Italy Starts Cracking Down on Underage Drinking." The reporter examines the current "let's-go-get-loaded spirit" of Italy's young people. A local bartender is interviewed and quoted as saying, "Lots of young people don't even know what they're drinking...they just [want] to get drunk." This sounds familiar to me; I think the same thing could be said of America's young drinkers.
The difference is the minimum legal drinking age. In Italy, the national minimum legal drinking age is 16, but, according to the article, is often ignored or rarely enforced. Officials in Italy are now beginning to take note of some startling statistics regarding the consequences of the current drinking habits of young people and especially pre-teen youth. The articles sites that 34% of 11-year-olds have "problems with alcohol" and 63% of youth under 18 get drunk on the weekend (boys consuming an average of 4 drinks per session and girls consuming 6). The city of Milan in northern Italy is taking action in what the mayor calls, "a response to an emergency", rather than some "newfound whiff of Puritanism". The city has now imposed a strict new law in which the parents of anyone underage caught drinking and anyone who supplies alcohol to someone under 16 with alcohol will be punished. The mayor hopes that this will send the message to young people and their families that "alcohol is bad for you and that alcohol abuse and dependence lead to negative consequences."
In recent years, there has been renewed debate in America about lowering the drinking age. The reasons used often include a reference to foreign countries with lower drinking ages and the perception that they do not have the same binge drinking culture that we do. I believe that we need to look at these other countries more closely before accepting that statement as truth. This article, as well as recent articles regarding the binge drinking culture in France, leads me to believe that lowering the drinking age would only expand our current binge drinking culture to younger youth. If in Italy, with the minimum legal drinking age of 16, 11-year-olds are experiencing problems with alcohol, I can only imagine that by lowering the drinking age in America, we would find more middle schoolers and high schoolers suffering the consequences of alcohol abuse. What do you think?
We just conclued the 2009 Youth Summit sponsored by Greenville Family Partnership and Beyond Differences hosted at Bob Jones University. It was a great event! Participants were teens ages 15-19 from all over Greenville. They worked on identifying the barriers they face on their path to adulthood including: education, employment, morales/ethics, religion/spirituality, good/bad choices, alcohol, etc. Then the teens presented their ideas about how they can overcome the barriers and succeed. We heard some great thoughts and ideas from these young people!
One thing I would like to share with parents reading this blog came out of, or rather did not hear, the discussions I heard regarding ALCOHOL. I realized after listening to the groups present their ideas that, while there was a lot of discussion on drinking responsibly (not driving, not drinking too much, etc.), not one group made any statement about the fact that it is illegal for them to drink at all!
So, okay, we have obviously done a decent job at getting the message out there that when a person chooses to drink, they need to do so responsibly. Have we totally neglected reinforcing that it is illegal until the age of 21 and therefore not responsible? What do you think? Ask your kids what they think it means to drink responsibly.....does it agree with the law and what you believe?
As I have presented to several groups lately:
"If I am really hungry and craving a Snickers, but have no money, can I go to the store and just take one? Is that responsible? Why not?"