To toast or not to toast? Families have the duty to educate teens about the responsible use of alcohol

The Tower (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)

Ringing in the New Year by clinking glasses of champagne is a tradition thousands of adults enjoy every year. From Christmas Eve eggnog to Hanukkah Manischewitz, drinking alcoholic beverages is a common element of special occasions–one which should not be strictly limited to those 21 and older in the family.

We believe that families have the right to allow high school students, especially upperclassmen, to drink moderately and responsibly on the special occasions which characterize the holiday season. Although we do not condone casual or unsupervised drinking, we believe sipping mulled wine once a year with family is hardly condemnable.

Of the 190 independent countries in the world, 32 allow minors to drink, while 115 permit those 18 to 19 years old to drink, according to drinkingage.procon.org. Although America’s drinking age is 21, 68 percent of 12th graders have tried alcohol, according to a 2013 Monitoring the Future survey.

These statistics show that while the United States has one of the higher legal drinking ages in the world, it is a law which has been ignored by more than two-thirds of teenagers. Even with the legal consequences of MIPs and DUIs, teenagers continue to drink, often binging on hard liquor like straight vodka and whiskey. If parents allow teenagers to drink responsibly in their own homes, we believe drinking and driving and binge drinking would be mitigated, since the teenagers do not need to hide their consumption and can learn safe drinking practices.

Of course, much of learning is based on modeling, which is when a child looks at someone else’s actions and mimics them. If an adolescent’s first experience with alcohol is through the wrong end of a beer bong, they will theoretically learn to equate drinking with binging and partying.

Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year, and cost the U.S. $24 billion in economic costs in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionwebsite. In 2013, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 14 percent of youth aged 12 to 20 years reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.

This type of drinking can easily lead to alcoholism and drug addictio

However, if an adolescent is introduced to alcohol with a conservative glass of wine at a holiday dinner, they will equate drinking with infrequent special occasions, family and moderation.

Ultimately, the decision lies with parents, guardians and relatives. It is a complex choice which calls into question a family’s morals, values and ethics. For some, drinking is a rite of passage, and for others, it’s an absolute taboo. But for those equivocating on whether or not to buy that extra bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe this year Jr. is ready to toast with more than just grape juice.

Cartoon by Abby Ferry

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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