Beer and wine, served one drink at a time: that’s how the North Carolina General Assembly should let 18 to 20-year-olds enjoy alcohol.
While it’s something of a youthful tradition to malign the loftiness of our current minimum legal drinking age, we take this proposal to lower it seriously. After all, abuse of alcohol exacts a huge social cost on North Carolinian society.
The most recent available chunk of Center for Disease Control data on the topic — covering the period of 2006 to 2010 — shows that 2,767 deaths in North Carolina stemmed from excessive alcohol consumption. Furthermore, many studies have connected a minimum legal drinking age of 21 (as compared to lower legal drinking ages popular in states during the 1970s) to concrete benefits.
These include decreased alcohol-related traffic fatalities among young people and reductions in binge drinking. Such comparisons can muddy the issue, though, because an all-or-nothing drinking age statute is just one public health tool to reduce alcohol-related tragedy (and it’s a particularly blunt one). A better implement would be a statute restricting alcohol purchase for under-21 adults, rather than outright prohibiting it — a legislative guardrail rather than a brick wall.
Such a law would ban 18-to-20 year-olds from buying alcohol in bulk (i.e., any more than one drink at a time) while letting them purchase beer and wine by the glass in restaurants and bars.