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Educators Urge Lower Drinking Age to Cut Bingeing

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By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Scores of college presidents, including the head of Maryland's public university system and the president of Johns Hopkins University, have an unexpected request for legislators: Please, lower the drinking age.

The Amethyst Initiative, launched in July, is a coalition of college presidents who say that the legal drinking age of 21 encourages binge drinking on campuses. William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, William Brody, president of Johns Hopkins, C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland and the presidents of Washington and Lee, Sweet Briar, Towson, Randolph-Macon, Duke, Tufts, Dartmouth and others have signed on to the effort.

It is likely to be difficult politically to change the drinking age, which has been 21 since the mid-1980s.

In a survey released yesterday by Nationwide Insurance, which is hosting a symposium on binge drinking in Washington in November with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 75 percent of adults said they support tougher enforcement of existing drinking laws.

In Maryland, the House drug and alcohol committee chairman called on local colleges to not take part.

"Far more teens die in alcohol-related incidents than [in those caused by] all the other illicit drugs combined," said Del. William A. Bronrott (D-Montgomery), who co-founded the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, which fights drunken driving and underage drinking. "Lowering the drinking age to 18 will only make the situation worse."


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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