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Should Tennessee lower the legal drinking age?

Staff Report • Oct 12, 2012 at 8:49 AM

In the legal sense, most Americans are considered to be adults when they turn 18. They can vote, fight for their country and get married.

By this point, 18-year-olds in many states have had a driver’s license for at least two years. At the same time, many Americans aren’t allowed to legally consume an alcoholic beverage until they reach age 21. Some critics of that law think it’s time for a change. They argue that men and women who are old enough to fight in Afghanistan are responsible enough to buy alcohol legally.

On the other hand, Mothers Against Drunk Driving say it is a very bad idea to lower the drinking age. They cite statistics from the National Highway Traffic Administration that show setting the drinking age at 21 has lowered the number of traffic fatalities of drivers between ages 18-21 by 13 percent nationwide.

And incidents of binge drinking like the one reported at a University of Tennessee-Knoxville fraternity don’t exactly help make the case for lowering the legal drinking age. A student was hospitalized there earlier this month for alcohol poisoning.

Tennessee law prohibits anyone under 21 from purchasing or consuming alcohol. There are no exceptions, as is the case in many other states. States that do decide to lower their drinking age can face a loss of federal tax dollars. Congress voted in 1984 to penalize states that set the drinking age below 21 with forfeiture of 10 percent of their federal highway funds.

Should Tennessee consider lowering the legal drinking age from 21 to 18?

You can Sound off on this topic by sending your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or to mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification purposes. We will print your responses on the Editorial and Commentary pages in the coming weeks.

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