Laws don't stop underage drinkers

Study also finds those under 21 more likely to binge drink

June 19, 2000 - A study by the Harvard School of Public Health finds that current laws are little deterrent to underage college students who want to drink.


"Students today come to college expecting to drink," said Henry Wechsler, director of Harvard's College Alcohol Studies Program. "They think that's what you're supposed to do in college, and they find plenty of ways to do it."

The study found that underage students either have older friends buy for them or frequent local bars and on-campus parties.

"There's always someone who will buy for you," said Craig Lareau, 18, of Westborough, who graduated from high school this year and will enter college in the fall. "And there are bars I can go to that would let me."

The report noted that while students of legal drinking age drank more often, underage drinkers were more prone toward binge drinking. About three-quarters of those over 21 said they had a drinking in the last month, and about one-quarter had five or more. Sixty percent of underage students had a drinking in the last month and 42% said they had at least five drinks at a time.

Helen Stubbs, spokeswoman for the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention, said harsh penalties are needed for older people who provide young people with alcohol, and the owners of bars that regularly serve young drinkers.

"We need to hold the licensed sellers responsible, and to put some teeth to those laws," she said.

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