Kids and Booze
Addiction expert and public health activist Stanton Peele argues against zero tolerance alcohol advocacy in the Wall Street Journal.
Several studies have shown that the younger kids are when they start to drink, the more likely they are to develop severe drinking problems. But the kind of drinking these studies mean–drinking in the woods to get bombed or at unattended homes–is particularly high risk.
Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2004 found that adolescents whose parents permitted them to attend unchaperoned parties where drinking occurred had twice the average binge-drinking rate. But the study also had another, more arresting conclusion: Children whose parents introduced drinking to the children at home were one-third as likely to binge.
And you could make a pretty good argument that drinking in the woods and getting bombed at unattended parties are the product of the minimum drinking age.
Of course, when the anti-alcohol activists cite the "earlier the age one starts drinking, the greater the chance of addiction" figure, they lump it all in together, which paints an incomplete picture, and makes for bad policy.
In fact, the American Medical Association has actually put out press releases lamenting the fact that most teens get their first sip of alcohol from their parents. I'd say that's exactly who ought to be giving it to them.