Posted at: 09/21/2012 11:57 PM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - Ever since the 1980s, the legal drinking age in New York State has been 21, although many people think the law is unenforceable and should be changed. Others believe young people are often too immature to make the right choices when it comes to alcohol-related decisions.
The latest debate on the subject comes about at a time when Albany's Mayor Jerry Jennings is saying it needs to be looked at, and also on a day when a University at Albany student was charged with serving minors at an underage house party on State Street.
It was on Saint Patrick's Day weekend in 2011, when a drunken rampage involving area college students focused attention on the issue of underage drinking, but even after what happened then, and what continues to happen now, Jennings had this to say on Thursday:
"I personally think we should look at this drinking age and put the kids back on campus at 19 or so and look at what drove (the drinking age up to 21) and what the repercussions have been."
On the same streets where the Kegs and Eggs fiasco embarrassed the community, you'd be hard pressed to find people -- especially students -- who disagree with the mayor.
"Everyone's going to drink any way," said Mason Burns, a 19-year old college student, "It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 21."
"Having a drinking age is a mute point because if you want to do it, you're going to do it," said Jacob Behm, another 19-year old college student.
Cindy Dort, a safety specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, points to statistics indicating kids who are introduced to alcohol at a younger age have a greater tendency that they'll grow up to have alcohol problems later in life.
"Educationally, we know that the brain doesn't develop until they're 25," Dort says, "Therefore we need to give them time to learn how to make those good choices."
But while Dort can list several reasons why the drinking age should remain right where it is, many young people are quick to find their own justification against her position.
"I feel like people wouldn't be more apt to get fake IDs and break the law more if the drinking age was lower because people wouldn't be trying to hid everything," said Paul Gradkowski, 19.
"I believe it should be 18 actually," opined Neil Maxwell, also 19. "If you fight for your country, why can't you have a drink in your country?"
"I wish that were the case," said Dort. "I wish everyone who turned 18 and could fight for our country could make those good choices but unfortunately we see every day where there's a tragedy because they couldn't make those good choices."
If New York were to lower its drinking age -- a very big if -- it would have to be done by the state legislature.