The outrage of teen drinking in Maryland

I’m having some trouble with this story:

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said Thursday that showing up at a “beach week” party of teenagers and not investigating whether there was underage drinking was “a mistake that I made.”

“Perhaps I should have assumed there was drinking going on, and I got that wrong,” Gansler said.

He said he stopped only briefly at the party in Delaware last June to see his son and left without asking the teenagers — including shirtless boys and a girl dancing on a tabletop — about the red plastic cups scattered around the party.

… The party came at the end of a weeklong trip Gansler and other parents helped organize and finance for a dozen boys who had just graduated from the Landon School, a private school for boys in Bethesda.

Written rules given to the teens who were staying at the house for the week forbade drinking “hard liquor,” but included no such instructions about beer.

The press is going overboard with righteous indignation. It’s shocked … SHOCKED … that drinking is going on at a graduation party of high school seniors.

What’s the big deal? From what I read, the parents were actually being responsible. They rented a place for kids to have a good time. They set down rules that made sure none of the kids would drive away after the party. They specified no hard liquor and no drugs.

Besides, the kids are high school seniors. That puts them at 18 years old, just the right age to go off to Afghanistan to get their asses shot off.

The drinking age in the United States is ridiculous. Look at this (MLDA means minimum legal drinking age):

II. International Drinking Laws By Age: Listing of 138 Countries (lowest legal age limit for any type of alcohol)
No MLDA (27 countries)
Albania, Armenia, Austria, Benin, Bosnia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Lao, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Moldova, Morocco, Nepal, Solomon Islands, Togo, Tonga, Vietnam
16-17 MLDA (12 countries)
Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Suriname, Switzerland
18-19 MLDA (85 countries)
Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chile, China (PRC), China (Tiawan), Colombia, Congo (Republic of), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea (South), Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanatu, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe
20 MLDA (3 countries)
Iceland, Japan, Paraguay
21 MLDA (6 countries)
Fiji, Indonesia, Micronesia, Palau, Sri Lanka, United States
Illegal to drink alcohol at any age (5 countries) some exceptions for non-Muslims may apply
Brunei, Gambia, Iran, Libya, Pakistan

The legal age is 21 in the U.S. Of 138 countries in the world, we’re with the bottom 11, and the only Western nation in that group. As strict as we are with our alcohol laws, we still have higher instances of alcohol abuse and alcohol related accidents than most other countries.

The World Health Organization did a study of alcohol consumption worldwide, and determined this, among other things:

Americans Are Drinking Less Than Europeans, But Dying More Often From It: Americans aged 15 and up drink only three-quarters as much alcohol as Europeans, but are far more likely to be involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents or die from other alcohol-related causes. There’s no single reason Americans are less responsible with alcohol, but some speculate that a higher legal drinking age in the U.S. leads to more destructive underage drinking habits. Another explanation: Far more Europeans take public transportation home from the bar.

Our Kids Are Drinking a Lot More: The major change in drinking rates that occurred since the 1990s wasn’t for the better. A 2008 WHO survey found that 71 percent of the countries measured had seen an increase in drinking among teenagers aged 13 to 15, and 80 percent had seen an increase among young adults aged 18 to 25. Binge drinking is also on the rise worldwide, which the WHO attributed in part to the rise of “alcopops”—sugary, caffeinated alcoholic drinks like Four Loko.

Other places have lower drinking ages, but we’re more irresponsible. In Belgium, the legal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine. My son was in high school there and could drink at bars. There were clubs geared to his age group. We attended pub quizzes together and often had a pint of Guinness with our meals.

When he came back to the States, the law said he couldn’t drink. And when he turned 21 in his senior year, he posted the message “second time for a legal first drink.”

There is something to be said for not making certain things taboo. Kids are so riled up about not drinking that when they finally hit the age, they go nuts. Kids in the rest of the world seem to have more control than in the U.S., probably because they aren’t under siege all the time, badgered over the things they aren’t allowed to do.

Gansler’s actions don’t bother me, other than he’s apologizing for something that merits no apology. Bring the drinking age in line with the rest of the world, and be an active parent and teach your kids to act responsibly.

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