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:

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:

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

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

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

Our Infographic: A background on binge drinking and MLDAs around the world/the US


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.).






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 Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.


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.


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.?



The sections below should comprise 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.




(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

Operative clauses

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





(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?




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)?  



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


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