New York, Feb 24: There could be intermittent cries for lowering the legal drinking age, including in India, but the law saves a lot of lives, shows research.
Researchers found that studies done since 2006 show that the laws are associated with lower rates of drunk-driving crashes among young people.
And it seems they also curb other hazards of heavy drinking – including suicide, dating violence and unprotected sex.
“The evidence is clear that there would be consequences if we lowered the legal drinking age,” said lead researcher William DeJong of Boston University School of Public Health.
In India the legal drinking age varies between 18 to 25 years in different states. While Goa, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have lowered it to 18 years, it’s 25 years in New Delhi, the capital of India.
In some other states, the legal drinking age is 21.
In the US, 29 states had lowered their legal drinking age to 18, 19 or 20 in the late 1970s. But after a rise in drunk-driving crashes among young people, many states began to reverse course.
A change in federal law eventually pushed all states to adopt a minimum drinking age of 21 by 1988.
But in recent years, the benefits of the age-21 law have been challenged.
Many young people break the law and drink anyway. But, DeJong said, the evidence shows that the law is working despite that.
That may be, in part, because minors do not want to be caught drinking, and therefore take fewer risks – like getting behind the wheel.
“Also, there are many young people who do wait until they are 21 to drink,” DeJong said.
Tougher enforcement of the age-21 law, rather than a repeal, is what’s needed, he said.
“Just because a law is commonly disobeyed doesn’t mean we should eliminate it,” DeJong noted.
“Some people assume that students are so hell-bent on drinking, nothing can stop them. But it really is the case that enforcement works,” he added.
The findings were published in a supplemental issue to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.