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Position Paper on 21-Year-old Drinking Age
Senator Lee B. Laskin
Page Twenty-Six


This position paper would not have been possible without the assistance of many people and organizations.

Considerable credit must go to my Legislative Assistant, John Crosbie, for sifting through numerous studies, statistics, and reports to prepare this in-depth paper.

Special mention must also go to: New Jersey State Police (particularly the "Uniform Crime Reporting Unit"); Mindy Gaines, Senior Research Analyst, National Conference of State Legislatures; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Richard Douglass of the Highway Safety Research Institute at the University of Michigan; Allen B. Rice, II, Executive Director of the Michigan Council on Alcohol Problems; the staff of "State Legislatures" magazine; Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer of PBS-TV'S "MacNeil-Lehrer Report"; De laware Valley Chapter of "Mothers Against Drunk Drivers" (MADD); the AL-CO-HOL Program of the Foundation for Safety, Inc.; the Automobile Association of America (AAA); "Motor Club News," official publication of the Motor Club of America; South Jersey Council on Alcoholism, Sewell, New Jersey; Tom Cannon, Public Information Officer for the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety; Senate Minority Staff Researchers, Vic Mc Donald and Anna Muschel; New Jersey State Library staff; and the New Jersey Legislative Services office.

There have been hundreds of civic, education, and religious organizations that have passed resolutions in favor of a return to 21, as well as thousands of private citizens who have signed petitions. I share this report with all of you. Thanks for your concern, time, and kind support.

in motor vehicles and improved fireproofing

about the overall cost-benefit assessment of the in residences);

current prohibitions. From a more limited permodification to alcoholic beverages them

spective, however, some recent trends tend to selves (e.g., reduction of alcohol content,

support claims that regulatory approaches have reduction or elimination of nitrosamines);

had an impact on the extent of drug use. efforts by community institutions to modify

• Heroin addiction in this country has been desocial settings and contexts to reduce the risk

clining in recent years, coincident with reduced associated with intoxication and to alter

supplies on the illegal market and the extensive social reaction to some types of drinking or

availability of treatment services. Late in 1979, drug-using behavior.

however, the supply and incidence of heroin use • Legislative and regulatory measures include:

increased in several Eastern cities. Also, bar- regulating the conditions of availability of

biturate-related mortality has been declining alcoholic beverages (i.e., zoning regulations

steadily as a result of increased legal controls, regarding hours of sale, qumbers of outlets

greater physician awareness of the most efficaand numbers of licenses);

cious uses of these drugs, and improved public - coforcing minimum drinking age laws and

awareness of the hazards associated with the employing legal disincentives to discourage

use of barbiturates in combination with other the dispensing of alcohol to obviously intoxi

depressants. cated persons;

• Mass media campaigns that have focused public . — enforcing laws prohibiting driving while in

attention upon alcohol use and abuse may have toxicated by alcohol or drugs and initiating

contributed to a period of relative stability in stronger legal disincentives;

alcohol consumption during the seventies (alcontrolling advertising of alcoholic bever

though economic conditions were also a likely ages;

significant factor). Alcohol problems, as noted enforcing laws related to production, distri

by several indicators (cirrhosis mortality rate bution and use of "other drugs" that are

decline, survey data on alcohol consumption proscribed except for medical and scientific

among youth and adults), appear also to bave purposes; special law enforcement agencies

leveled off during this period of apparent stabilare responsible for enforcing such prohibi

ity. While direct causal attribution is not possitions and violations are punishable by crim

ble, the creation of a National alcoholism treatinal sanctions;

ment network and early intervention services in regulation of conditions under which these

the workplace probably played a role in the substances are available for authorized uses,

stabilization of cirrhosis deaths. such as measures relating to scheduling of

• Alcoholic beverage regulation has not tradition"controlled substances and limitations on

ally been focused on public health consideraprescriptions;

tions, but data concerning the impact of regulaperiodic re-examination of sanctions to en

tory initiatives on tobacco smoking may be sure correspondence to the degree of severity

transferable to the alcohol area. Research here of the health and social problems associated

and in other countries suggests that the availwith the overuse of each particular sub

ability of alcohol may affect the level and type stance or drug;

of alcohol problems, particularly physical health patient labeling for certain prescription drugs

problems consequent to long-term excessive (estrogens, progestins);

drinking. Consumption, in turn, has been linked - drug information for patients in nursing

fairly conclusively to the relative price of alcohopes and in other long-term care facilities.

hol, and less conclusively to such factors as the

legal purchase age, number and dispersion of • Economic measures include:

retail on-premise and off-premise outlets, and - excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and

hours of sale. Also “Dram Shop" laws can offer other means of affecting the price of alcohol;

powerful incentives for alcoholic beverage licen- tax incentives or disincentives to control

sees to try to reduce the likelihood of intoxicalevels of advertising expenditures for alco

ton among their patrons. holic beverages.

• In general, alcohol and drug education programs

can increase information levels and modify b. Relative strength of the measures

attitudes. Their effect on drinking or drug-using • Systematic evaluation of the effects of education

behavior has not yet been demonstrated concluand yearly intervention programs targeted at

sively, although recent studies have yielded enchildren and youth and populations at special

couraging preliminary findings. risk is at an early stage. • Regulatory measures have been the Nation's 3. Specific Objectives for 1990

primary tool of drug abuse prevention during • Improved health status most of the 20th century. There is much debate a. By 1990, fatalities from motor vehicle accidents


A Survey of the 50 States The Legal Drinking Ages Page 2

Minimum Drinking Age Liquor Wine


Recent History of Any Changes in Drinking Age


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No changes. 19 Raised from 18 to 19

on July 1, 1978.
21* *Age 18 for 3.2% beer.
21 No changes.
18 Lowered from 21 to 18

on November 22, 1948,
but Criminal Code was
not revised to approve

ABC ruling until 1972. 20 Raised from 18 to 20

on October 24, 1977. 18 *Age 18 for "light" wine. 20 Raised from 18 to 20

on April 1, 1979. A
bill to raise drinking
age to 21 has passed

the Legislature.
21 Minimum drinking age

increased from 18 to 19, effective from December 3, 1978, through December 22, 1978, until a public referendum question raised age to 21 effective

December 23, 1978. 19 Raised from 18 to 19

on September 1, 1976. 21*

Law provides age 18 for
"light" wine and "beer

not over 4% in weight." 21

No changes. 19 Voters approved constitu

tional amendment raising legal age from 18 to 19 effective January 1, 1979; State legislation took

effect July 1, 1979. (Continued)

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all private and organized medical settings.

(Baseline data unavailable.) • Improved surveillance/cvaluation systems s. By 1990, a comprehensive data capability

should be established to monitor and evaluate the status and impact of misuse of alcohol and drugs on: health status; motor vehicle accidents; accidental injuries in addition to those from motor vehicles; interpersonal aggression and violence; sexual assault; vandalism and property damage; pregnancy outcomes; and emotional and physical development of infants

and children. 4. Principal Assumptions

• The Federal emphasis on research and technical

assistance will continue, with primary reliance on State and local governments and the voluntary sector for delivery of alcohol and drug abuse preven

tion services. • Resources and services devoted by State and local

governments, and voluntary groups, for drug and alcohol prevention programs and services will ex

pand. • Federal funding for research and evaluation in drug

and alcohol prevention will modestly increase, with special attention to the priority areas reflected in

the proposed objectives.
• Federal information initiatives will continue to

sensitize the public to the adverse social and health
consequences of heavy or frequent use of alcohol
and other drugs.
Strong and varied initiatives both public and pri-
vate, wili scek to minimize use of tobacco, alcohol
and other drugs by children and adolescents-in-
cluding coordinated efforts with alcohol producers,
distributors, retailers and State alcohol control com-

• The allocation of resources by alcohol producers,

distributors and retailers to the marketing, promotion and distribution of alcoholic beverages will

probably increase. • No dramatic shift in tax or regulatory policies to

ward availability and consumption of alcoholic beverages will occur, unless consumption trends

require reconsideration. • There will be no dramatic or permanent shift in the

availability of controlled substances outside legiti

mate medical and scientific channels. • The trend will continue toward modification of the

criminal law and its less punitive administration in cases involving arrests for personal possession of

marijuana and other drugs. 5. Data Sources a. To National level only • Health Interview Survey (HIS). Accidental in

juries, disability, use of hospital, medical and other services, and other health-related topics.

DHHS-National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NCHS Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10, selected reports, and Advance Data, selected reports. Continuing household inter

view survey; National probability samples. • Health Examination Survey (HES) and the

Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES). Alcohol and drug related conditions. DHHS-NCHS. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 11, selected reports. Periodic surveys; National probability samples; data obtained

from physician's examinations. • National Hospital Discharge Survey (HDS).

Utilization of hospital services related to misuse of alcohol and drugs. DHHS-NCHS Vital and Health Statistics, Series 13. Continuing; Na

tional probability sample, short stay hospitals. • National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey

(NAMCS). Alcohol and drug related patientphysician encounters. DHHS-NCHS. "NCHS Vital and Health Statistics, Series 13. Continuing survey; National probability sample, office

based physicians. • The lifestyle and values of youth. Non-medical

use of substances in 12 categories including marijuana, barbiturates, cocaine, prescription drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. DHHS-NİDA. Drugs in the Class of (survey year date), Behaviors, Attitudes and Recent National Trends, series Number 20. Annual surveys since 1975 of high school seniors in a National sample of public

and private schools. • The National Survey on Drug Abuse. Estimates

of the levels of illicit and legal drug use in the United States: marijuana-hashish, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin and other opiates; summary of data on use of inhalants, alcohol, cigarettes and the non-medical use of psychotherapeutic drugs legally prescribed. DHHS-NIDA. Highlighıs from the National Survey on Drug Abuse, 1977. Continuing survey since 1971; National

sample. • Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN). Drug

abuse encountered in emergency rooms and medical examination offices. DHHS-NIDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Quar. terly reports of provisional data Series G, NIDA. Continuing survey in 26 standard metro

palitan statistical areas. • National Prescription Audit (NPA). Drug sales,

including barbiturates, tranquilizers; source of prescription; payment status, provider type. IMS America, Lid., Ambler, Pennsylvania. IMS reports. Continuing audit of pharmacies on IMS

panel. Third Special Report to the US. Congress on

Alcohol and Health, June 1978. Subsequent reports will be available approximately every three years.

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