Bill Vasicek, Grand Forks, letter: Drinking age of 21 saves countless livesUnderage drinking is a factor in a host of serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high-risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning and the need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence.
By: Bill Vasicek,
GRAND FORKS — We are writing in response to Rob Port’s letter (“Old enough to fight, old enough to drink,” Page D3, March 18).
Laws are meant to protect people. Since 1988, the drinking age has been 21 in all 50 states.
And after the minimum legal drinking age law was enacted, alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes involving those less than 21 years of age decreased by 59 percent. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 900 young lives are saved each year because of the drinking age law.
Evidence shows that repeated exposure to alcohol during adolescence leads to long-lasting or permanent deficits in cognitive abilities, including learning and memory. Early legal access — age 18 — is associated with higher rates of drinking later in life.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Initiative on Underage drinking, 40 percent of those who started drinking before age 15 meet criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. This is four times greater than those who began drinking at age 21. In addition, polls show wide public support for keeping the minimum legal drinking age at 21.
Underage drinking has a societal cost. According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, underage drinking cost the residents of North Dakota $200 million in 2010. Compare this with the 2012 adopted budget for Grand Forks, which is $128 million.
Underage drinking is a factor in a host of serious problems, including homicide, suicide, traumatic injury, drowning, burns, violent and property crime, high-risk sex, fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol poisoning and the need for treatment for alcohol abuse and dependence. In addition, there are often significant long-term health risks.
Lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 would increase the harm.
According to local school risk and protective factor surveys, more young people every year in our community choose not to drink. This positive trend proves that many of our youth make good choices and respect the law.
Vasicek is community safety coordinator at Altru Health System. He submitted this on behalf of the members of the Grand Forks Substance Abuse and Prevention Coalition.