Minimum Legal Drinking Ages - Michelle Peng and Julia Marino


Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Public Act Number 0089 of 2017

Liquor; drinking age; obtaining court order before nonconsensual preliminary chemical breath testing of a minor; require. Amends sec. 703 of 1998 PA 58 (MCL 436.1703).

1978- MLDA of 21

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will change the ways in which students and adolescents interact with alcohol for the first time and learn safe practices of drinking as they are allowed to safely drink for the first time with their parents. With this proposal for openness and honesty between students and parents/guardians we hope to attack the problem of binge drinking at the first experiences with alcohol in order to prevent it from occurring in the future. This proposal has the goal of lowering alcohol related injuries, hospitalizations, and deaths.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

We have seen and experienced this problem first hand as college students all across our campus.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Although most of the children we work with in our service project are not old enough to drink (or even want to yet), we have spoken with the executive director of Books for a Benefit as one of our consultations. She has had experience with families with adolescent children trying binge drinking in her time with Books for a Benefit. She is also experienced in seeing this take place on a college campus, even though she herself does not drink.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Officer Justin Berent of Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS)

Officer Berent has done a lot of alcohol awareness workshops with Greek Life organizations. He has clarified what laws exist in Michigan for those who are from out of state and doesn’t dance around the fact the drinking occurs on campus. He ensures that adolescents and young adults are well informed if they choose to participate. He discussed how it’s probably not a feasible possibility to outright lower the drinking age due to a loss federal highway funding. He was informative on the health risks associated with binge and excessive drinking for college students while touching on the effects on school performance and mental health. He brought to light all of the stakeholders that would be involved in such a complicated issue such as healthcare, businesses, court systems, insurance companies, etc.

CONSULTATION 2: Robert A. Zucker - Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology; Director, Department of Psychiatry Substance Abuse Section; Director, Addiction Research Center Director, Addiction Research Center

Professor Zucker conducts a great deal of research with neuroscientists, molecular geneticists, and statisticians to characterize pathways that lead to substance abuse, conduct disorder, and other non-specific risk outcomes. He didn’t necessarily see it from our angle but that conflict provided us with a valuable perspective and new ways of thinking. He also pointed us to a research article, “Reducing Underage and Young Adult Drinking: How to Address Critical Drinking Problems During This Developmental Period” written by Michael Windle, PH.D., and himself that offered productive research on our topic.

Professor Zucker doesn’t particularly believe that adolescents see alcohol as “forbidden fruit” and therefore desire it more. He did say the big issue is that alcohol consumption is seen as a step towards adulthood status, and that is what is so desirable to young adults.

We discussed the effects of just directly lowering the drinking age and Professor Zucker doesn’t see a positive to that solution. He pointed to a substantial amount of empirical evidence that states which have lower drinking ages, have more adolescent deaths and accidents.

Another topic we talked about was parental control/permission with initial alcoholic experiences and how it might affect drinking behaviors. An interesting comment he made was, “In reality, that is what happens regarding drinking (or not) within the home among underage drinkers. Probably the biggest factor here is the parents’ own drinking habits/style/attitudes.” Overall he thinks the issue isn’t about control but rather is about parents and their own understanding on the complicated issues related to drinking.  


CONSULTATION 3: Books for a Benefit Executive Director/ Founder: Nadine Jawad

Nadine is the founder and director of Books for a Benefit and we have been partnering with her for our service activity. She has worked with numerous communities around Michigan and offers a lot of experience and insight into adolescent behaviors. Nadine believes that America has fostered an immature and uniformed drinking culture. She believes lowering the drinking age could mitigate some cultural issues and she provided us with her experience while studying abroad at Oxford. She stated, “ England the drinking age is relatively young compared to the U.S. What my professors and I talked a lot about was how students entering university were used to drinking socially and knew their tolerance and how to manage a lot better than their international U.S. students.”

She also made the point that there is a lack of information and laws that make seeking help difficult. Nadine thinks creating stricter laws can damage the future of students and will make it difficult to create a safe, fun, and responsible drinking environment.  



Describe the specific issue or problem, being sure to provide sufficient context so that someone less familiar with the issue has a sense of the bigger picture, but know that your focus here is on a more detailed spelling out of the specific problem or issue that you’ve identified. (250 words minimum)


Underage binge drinking is a major public health concern and heavily debated issue across many states within the United States, Michigan included. These behaviors can lead to many consequences such as academic failure, aggressive behavior, drug-use and long-term health risks. An example of academic failure is demonstrated by the fact that 1 in 4 college students report academic repercussions from drinking, including class absence, poor examination grades and lower grades overall. (NIH, 2015). Alcohol-use during adolescence cause an increased risk of alcohol dependence, learning impairments and memory loss (Miller, Naimi, Brewer & Jones, 2007). Additionally, binge drinking causes a significant impact on liver function with long term effects due to high stress alcohol metabolization (Mathurin, 2009). It is also heavily connected with the top three causes of death among youth which include unintentional injury, homicide and suicide. In the United States between 1993 and 2001, binge drinking episodes increased by 17%  per person per year, where the highest rates are seen with young adults between the ages of 18-25 years (Naimi & Brewer, 2003). Young adults between the ages of 18-20 make up the biggest group of binge drinkers in the United States, where approximately 90% off all alcohol consumed by this age group is in the form of binge drinking (CDC, 2011). We want to explore methods that can lower the percentage of young adults that participate in binge drinking to develop a more positive drinking atmosphere, such as the possibility of changing the legal drinking age. We hope such changes will be successful in Michigan in order to lead by example for the rest of the United States.


Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1:Change MLDA to 18 w/out parent consent to purchase or consume

The first solution to combat binge drinking in Michigan (and across the United States) is to lower the drinking age to 18 years of age without stipulations such as parental consent or supervision. This would be a model after the European countries that have a MLDA of 18. Although cultural drinking norms are different, research has shown that young Europeans drink more frequently than Americans per month, but with fewer occasions that result in intoxication. Parents also play a key role by first introducing alcohol to their children, which could be possible in our state and country as well if drinking laws were less strict to begin with. Underage drinking in our country is currently less controlled, and therefore needs to be reformed.

SOLUTION 2: Change MLDA  to 19 w/out parental consent to purchase or consume

This potential solution is modeled after Canada’s drinking laws. There has been research done comparing college students in the United States versus those in Canada. The results showed that more young, Canadian students drink overall but Americans drink much more heavily. 41% of American students participate in heavy alcohol use (5+ drinks in a row) while 35% of Canadian students participate in that behavior. In general, research also found that heavy alcohol use is more prevalent among underage students than it is with legal aged students.
Kuo, M., Adlaf, E. M., Lee, H., Gliksman, L., Demers, A., & Wechsler, H. (2002). More Canadian students drink but American students drink more: Comparing college alcohol use in two countries. Addiction, 97(12), 1583-1592. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2002.00240.x

SOLUTION 3: Change to MLDA to 16 or 18 under parental supervision & consent

In certain states, there is an exception to the possession, consumption, or internal possession prohibitions when there is a family member present and/or consents to the actions. There is a variety of specifications on which family members may consent for this to apply and what situations it may apply to. The Alcohol Policy Information System defines a “family member” in this form of exception as the consent or presence of a parent or guardian, or the spouse of a married minor.
A revision to the drinking law such as this emphasizes the importance of parental supervision where such practices with adolescents are correlated with the development of alcohol use in adolescence. Studies have shown that parenting behaviors are important environmental influences on alcohol use during this age and increased parental supervision has been connected to less alcohol involvement.

Reaction or advice from a Faculty Member or Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a faculty member or a topic coordinator, whether in a proposal check-in meeting, a discussion during office hours, or in comments made in response to your actual proposal document, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

Julia and I had the pleasure of meeting with Professor Jeff Stanzler for our proposal check-in meeting where he offered a great deal of valuable advice. He helped us dive deeper into our underlying issue. After we discussed it along with our proposed solutions, he was extremely helpful in deciding who would be useful in our consultations. Jeff suggested that we talk to people who may have conflicting views so that we are prepared for every angle that may come. This led us to UofM’s Professor Zucker of Psychiatry & Psychology, who provided a lot of useful research.


Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

  1. Upon looking at all of the discussion topics in the caucus and thinking about our volunteer project, we decided we wanted to look at a problem that we see all the time on our campus. We wanted to have experience with the problem in order to have a genuine concern with the issue. With these factors in mind we decided to take on the issue of underage and binge drinking.

  2. We started by looking at how big of an issue this really is, not just in the state of Michigan, but all across the United States and the world. We found what binge drinking really means, how many people partake in binge drinking, how many people die from it, and what one of our consultants thought about the issue.

  3. We started researching binge drinking in places where the minimum legal drinking laws are different than our own, hoping these findings would lead us to a possible solution. However, there is a lot of conflicting information in countries with lower drinking ages and alcohol related car accidents, for example, due to the fact that many European cities are set up differently than ours.

  4. When we began writing the prospectus we decided to research further into the effects of this problem, especially on students performance since this issue is so large among college age young adults. On top of that we found that binge drinking has significant health effects compared to frequent or regular non-binge drinking (ie. one glass of wine per day is shown to have positive health effects).

  5. When coming up with our potential solutions, we still felt it was a good idea to model them after other states or countries. But after receiving feedback from the TCs we found that our solutions were quite similar and that we either needed to revise them or come up with something new altogether. However, upon further research we found that if any state in the United States has a drinking age below 21 they may lose federal highway funding. Since Michigan already has terrible roads, we decided we needed to take our proposal in the direction of creating exclusions to the MLDA rather than outright lowering it.

  6. Right around this time we had our meeting with Jeff Stanzler who suggested we find someone with a conflicting viewpoint for one of our consultations, which proved to be great advise. We sought out a psychology professor here at Michigan who is very against lowering the drinking age, but agreed the parental consent upon first experiences with alcohol is important and likely what is already happening. He brought up an interesting point that parents’ own practices and uses of alcohol would also affect the way children see and desire using it.

  7. During our time of writing our final proposal we broke up the work into sections, but still collaborated on everything. We have found it more beneficial to run everything by each other and work through our problems together rather than trying to get things done on our own. We sought help from our TC to make sure we were on the right track with our “whereas” clauses and have checked everything over to prepare for submission.


Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?


Formal Proposal

This is your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.....the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) is 21 years old in most of the United States, a survey from 2013 conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) reported that 60.2% of students in grades 9 to 12 had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more days during their life, 28.3% had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more occasions in the past 30 days, and 16.7% had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row (binge drinking) in the past 30 days.

WHEREAS....the MLDA is 21 years old in most of the United States, each year, approximately 5,000 people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. (NIH)

WHEREAS....the MLDA is 21 years old suggesting drinking is allowed to occur once a young adult has moved out, a study in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics provided results showing that minors in the adolescent stages with higher levels of parental supervision were associated with less alcohol use.

WHEREAS...the MLDA is 21 years old, recent research published by the World Health Organization found that in many European countries where the drinking age is 18 or younger, 15 and 16 year-old teens have more drinking occasions per month, but fewer occasions of dangerous intoxication than their American counterparts

WHEREAS....Robert Zucker, Professor of Psychiatry & Psychology, said parental control and permission with initial alcohol experiences is affecting drinking behaviors, and in reality, “is what happens regarding drinking (or not) within the home among underage drinkers”.

WHEREAS...the MLDA is 21 years old, young adults between the ages of 18-20 make up the biggest group of binge drinkers in the United States, where approximately 90% of all alcohol consumed by this age group is in the form of binge drinking (CDC, 2011)

WHEREAS....the MLDA implies college-aged students are allowed to consume alcohol once 21, in the U.S. between 1992 and 2011, binge drinking episodes increased by 17% per person per year, where the highest rates are seen with young adults between the ages of 18-25 years (Naimi & Brewer, 2003)

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


1. That the state will add the exception to the minimum legal drinking law where minors at the age of 18 or higher may possess and consume alcohol at home (or in a non-alcohol selling premises) in the presence of parent or guardian under their permission and supervision.

2. The state will also add the exception to the minimum drinking age law where minors at the age of 18 or higher may consume alcohol in alcohol selling premises (restaurants, bars, etc) with the verbal permission of a present parent or guardian.

3. These exceptions may be denied by alcohol selling premises who may refuse the sale of alcohol to a minor even with the permission of their parent or guardian.

4. These exceptions may be denied by the owner of the non-alcohol selling (private) premises where he or she may refuse the consumption of alcohol by a minor on his or her property even with the permission and presence of the parent or guardian.


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. By allowing minors to drink sooner, the “forbidden fruit” will no longer be forbidden and young people will simply drink more. This will allow them to develop alcohol related problems sooner in life, such as problems with addiction. “There is a substantial amount of empirical evidence showing that states which have lower drinking ages have more deaths and accidents from adolescents.  Furthermore, earlier drinking is a risk factor for continued heavy drinking into adulthood, and hence is also a risk factor for somewhat more drinking problems among earlier drinkers.” (Zucker, 2018)

2. MLDA 21 (with no exceptions) reduces traffic accidents and fatalities. 100 of the 102 analyses (98%) in a 2002 meta-study of the legal drinking age and traffic accidents found higher legal drinking ages associated with lower rates of traffic accidents.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that MLDA 21 decreased the number of fatal traffic accidents for 18- to 20-year-olds by 13% and saved approximately 27,052 lives from 1975-2008

3. Allowing parents to become involved with an adolescent’s drinking patterns could potentially be detrimental. The outcome of this is completely dependent on the parents’ own drinking habits, styles and attitudes. So if they are sparing in their own use and understand the risks of drinking, the outcomes for their young adults would be better. On the other hand, if a parents’ own use is unhealthy, it could make a negative impact on their child.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?

Since we are not proposing a new program or any educational measures at this time there would not be much if any funding required. If anything, we would be reducing costs to the state of Michigan with the reduction of binge drinking. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in 2010, the total estimated costs of binge drinking in the state of Michigan was $8.16 billion. The economic costs that brought Michigan to this total were loss of productivity, healthcare (including hospitalizations and dependence costs), violent and property crimes, motor vehicle crashes, and corrections. Placing these exceptions to the current MLDA of 21 may also stimulate the economy. “More people would legally be able to drink in bars, restaurants, and other licensed establishments. Therefore, revenue would increase for private business owners, and greater amounts of tax revenue would be collected by the government” (


These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

Alcohol/Substance Abuse Epidemiology Program. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2018, from,5885,7-339-71548_54783_54784-247299--,00.html

Centers for Disease Control (CDC). (2013). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). Available [Online]: Or an equivalent state data system.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2011. Surveillance Summaries. Morb Mort Weekly Rep, 61, SS-4, 1–162.

Clark, D. B., Kirisci, L., Mezzich, A., & Chung, T. (2008). Parental Supervision and Alcohol Use in Adolescence: Developmentally Specific Interactions. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics : JDBP, 29(4), 285–292.

Drinking Age Laws for All 50 States. (n.d.) Retrieved March 24, 2018, from

Grant, B.F., & Dawson, D.A. (1997). Age at onset of alcohol use and its association with DSM-IV alcohol abuse and dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse 9: 103-110.

Ingraham, C. (May 18, 2016). Where teenagers can legally drink in the U.S. (yes, really). Retrieved March 21, 2018, from

Kuo, M., Adlaf, E. M., Lee, H., Gliksman, L., Demers, A., & Wechsler, H. (2002). More Canadian students drink but American students drink more: Comparing college alcohol use in two countries. Addiction, 97(12), 1583-1592. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.2002.00240.x

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (2010). Excessive Alcohol Consumption; Economic Costs, Michigan 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2018, from

Miller, Jacqueline W., et al. "Binge drinking and associated health risk behaviors among high school students." Pediatrics, Jan. 2007, p. 76.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2002a). A call to action: Changing the culture of drinking at U.S. colleges. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health.

Rivis, Amanda and Paschal Sheeran. "Automatic Risk Behavior: Direct Effects of Binge Drinker Stereotypes on Drinking Behavior." Health Psychology, vol. 32, no. 5, May 2013, pp. 571-580.

Underage Drinking and Social Host Liability in Ohio. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2018, from

Underage Drinking in Michigan. (2013). Retrieved March 28, 2018, from 

Windle, M., Zucker A. R. (2010). Reducing Underage and Young Adult Drinking: How to Address Critical Drinking Problems During This Developmental Period. Vol. 33, Nos. 1 and 2.



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Total votes: 30