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Is underage drinking really a serious issue?

Regardless of the setting, the law states that underage drinking at any level is unacceptable. Yet countless young Floridians face serious penalties each year for just one misstep -- a misstep that could result in major fines and even jail time. It is easy to feel overwhelmed in such a situation, but many may wonder, is underage drinking really a pervasive problem among today's younger generations?

A 2016 article from CNN appears to ask a similar question, bringing to attention the fact that parents can have varying views of their childrens' maturity. Some parents agree to underage drinking only in certain, supervised situations, such as family holidays or special occasions. However, U.S. law does not take these decisions lightly, arguing that kids may get a misguided message on drinking responsibly. Some parents counter this argument by noting that giving children room to experiment before leaving for college can allow them to make better decisions when alone. Health experts highlighted in the CNN report add that children who drink at earlier ages have higher chances of developing addictions later in life, and that underage drinking can also negatively affect the developing brain.

While there are differing views on this subject, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists current statistics related to underage alcohol consumption that can help give a clearer picture on the matter. According to the NIAAA, 33 percent of teenagers have had at least one drink by age 15; that number leaps to 60 percent by age 18. Underage drinkers may feel the need to assert independence, take risks and keep up with their peers. Some argue that the steep penalties do not improve these statistics, but it is clear that underage drinking is an issue that may eventually require alternative solutions. 


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