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Do we need more laws to handle underage drinking, or do we teach responsibility?

Approximately 5,000 young people under 21 die each year due to underage drinking.

Recent occurrences in several states have lawmakers working to figure out something they can do to help save lives and prevent teenagers and young adults from causing more damage to themselves and others.

Some areas have resorted to local ordinances that include heavy fines for adults whose houses are used for underage drinking parties – whether they’re home or not. Other laws include keg registration, where the purchaser of the alcohol is the one punished if it is found to be consumed by people underage.

Part of the problem is that some parents adopt the attitude of “at least it’s at my house where I know they’re safe,” which may have its merits, but also fosters the idea that consuming alcohol to the point of getting buzzed or drunk is okay.

According to a recent national survey, about 10.8 million people ages 12-20 (28.2 percent) reported past month alcohol use in 2005. Nearly 7.2 million of these underage drinkers (18.8 percent) were binge drinkers and 2.3 million (6.0) were heavy drinkers. These figures have remained essentially the same since 2002.

Along with the immediate problems caused by underage drinking, there are residual effects on society as well.

For example, those who begin drinking in their early teens are at greater risk of developing alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. This means additional costs for rehabilitation programs, increased risk of future DUI/DWI, increased risk of accidents caused at work, etc.

However, with about half of the adult population being current drinkers, other people feel that if someone is old enough to die for our country in the military, then they’re old enough for have a drink. That may be true, but if consuming alcoholic beverages at a young age is going to continue to be prevalent in this society, then someone has to teach young people how to be responsible with such a dangerous substance, if that is at all possible.

It’s actually a shame that we have to develop laws with fines and penalties to try and correct a situation when more focus should be placed on effective education and prevention.

Article by Eric

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