One Alaska senator has proposed a bill that would allow military service members 18-21 to drink. Image: Flickr / MoneyBlogNewz / CC-BY

In 1984, the U.S. Federal government passed a law requiring states to set their drinking age to 21 or lose federal highway funding. In the nearly 27 years since the law passed, arguments have raged over the “fairness” of the age limit. One senator has suggested that the Alaska drinking age be reduced for military members.

Alaska drinking age being re-considered

A bill in the Alaska legislature would lower the drinking age for certain people. The Alaska drinking age, as with all states, is currently 21. Rep. Bob Lynn, a representative from Anchorage and Vietnam veteran, has proposed lowering the legal age to 18 for military service members. Showing a valid military ID would allow 18-year-old service members to purchase alcohol and cigarettes legally. The bill has been referred to committee and will likely not be voted on by the whole legislature.

The effect of a drinking age change

There are several reasons the Alaska drinking age will likely remain at 21 for all. Alaska would stand to lose about $17 million in funding for highways from the federal government, and military leadership in Alaska has come out against the bill. Federal law would prohibit underage solders from drinking on-base, even if they were of legal age in Alaska. About one out of every three behavioral incidents on Alaska’s military bases involves alcohol, and the concern is that a lower drinking age would increase the number of incidents.

The argument for lowering the drinking age

The most oft-repeated argument in support of Rep. Lynn’s bill and lowering the drinking age in general is that if you are old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be able to have a dhttp://www.newsytype.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5366&action=edit&message=10rink. Others support reducing the drinking age to take away the stigma, helping encourage responsible use of alcohol. One meta-analysis by the University of Minnesota found that a higher drinking age reduces drinking less than half of the time. However, vehicle accidents involving alcohol do tend to go down. As the study says:

The magnitude of effects of the age-21 policy may appear small. …However, even modest effects applied to the entire population of youth result in very large societal benefits.”

Sources

U of Minnesota study at CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/wagenaar.aspx
National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/2011/04/06/135188110/alaska-law-seeks-to-lower-drinking-age-for-troops?sc=tw

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