NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 11, 2008

Based on the theory that U.S. soldiers mature enough to handle a machine gun ought to be mature enough to handle alcohol, legislators in Kentucky, Wisconsin and South Carolina have proposed bills that would cut those states' drinking ages to 18 for military personnel, says Reason. 

Other states are taking notice:

  • A Minnesota bill would go further, allowing anyone 18 or older to drink, as would a ballot initiative in Missouri, while a South Dakota initiative would cover 19- and 20-year-olds.
  • Vermont's legislature is also debating a lower drinking age.

The recent interest in this issue is driven largely by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where men and women under 21 are disproportionately represented among the dead and injured, says Reason. 

But two major obstacles stand in the way of letting younger Americans legally consume alcohol:

  • Public opinion -- last year a Gallup poll found that 77 percent of Americans like the drinking age the way it is.
  • The will of Congress -- Congress has decreed that any state with a drinking age below 21 will forfeit 10 percent of its federal highway funds.

Source: Jacob Sullum, "Soda Soldiers," Reason, August/September 2008.

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