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Underage Drinking

For more than two decades, the people of the United States have benefited from a uniform minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) of 21. This has been one of the most successful public health regulations ever implemented (Voas, 2006). Many thousands of lives have been saved and tragedies averted. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the MLDA law has saved almost 24,000 lives in traffic crashes alone since 1975, when States began raising the drinking age. This figure does not include the many thousands of other types of injury and death that can result from alcohol use and that have been prevented since the law was changed (Jones, Pieper, & Robertson, 1992). These laws are highly effective, but they do require continued commitment and effort.

  • Every State, community, neighborhood, and family should be concerned about the use of alcohol by minors and should be involved in actions to reduce underage drinking. It is sometimes helpful to be reminded of some facts:
  • Alcohol is the drug most commonly used by youth—more than tobacco and more than marijuana or any other illicit drug (Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2005).
  • Motor vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides, and other unintentional injuries are the four leading causes of death of 15- to 20-year-olds, and alcohol is a factor in many of these deaths (Institute of Medicine, 2004).
  • Underage use of alcohol can have immediate and potentially tragic consequences as well as long-range harmful consequences, such as increased risk for chronic alcohol addiction (Hingson et al., 2006).

Recent research shows that the use of alcohol during adolescence may have a long-term detrimental effect on the developing human brain (Squeglia et al. 2009 and Brown et al., 2000).

1 Fell, J., Fisher, D., Voas, R., Blackman, K., and Tippetts, S., The relationship of underage drinking laws to reductions in drinking drivers in fatal crashes in the United States, Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 40, Issue 4, July 2008, Pages 1430–1440.

Florida has Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking:
Teens- It’s Illegal To:

Possess an alcoholic beverage if you are under the age of 21.
Consequences: 60 days in jail or a $500 fine, and being subjected to having your parents drive you around.

Misrepresent your age, or the age of anyone else, for the purpose of buying or being served alcoholic beverages.
Consequences: Having your driving privileges revoked, 60 days jail, and a $500 fine plus court costs.

Attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages or tobacco products if you are underage.
Consequences: Store owner or employee can have you arrested.