Wednesday, February 25, 2009

60 Minutes on the MLDA

Sunday night's coverage on 60 Minutes (you can watch it here ) of the conversation about the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) was disappointing, to say the least. The piece unfortunately framed the discussion as a debate between John McCardell, former president of Middlebury College, and Chuck Hurley, Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). While the news program accurately represented McCardell's view as an unpopular and unlikely one, it also showed some disturbing support for his ideas.

Their biggest mistake was the repeated footage showing young people--some as young as 15--drinking, interacting with police and EMTs, and involved in alcohol-related car crashes. It the show's producers were trying to demonstrate consequences to watching youth, they were misguided: these tactics are proven to have no impact on youth drinking rates, and in some cases may actually increase them.

The arguments were presented lopsidedly as well, allowing McCardell and other supporters of an 18 MLDA, to repeatedly call the current law "unenforceable," an "abysmal failure," and linking the law to the extreme drinking that goes on at college.

While Hurley was allowed some rebuttal, arguing that changing the law would push the problem down to high school students, and demonstrating support by an influential list of specialists and officials, it seems that an opportunity was missed to talk about how alcohol affects the development of young adult brains, how early drinking leads to greater risk of alcoholism, and looking at our social culture that allows and encourages unhealthy drinking.

Click here for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's recommendation for changing the culture of drinking at US colleges and universities.

What did you think of the 60 Minutes piece? Post your thoughts in the comments below, or email them to and we will continue the conversation online.

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