-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Strict enforcement of
underage drinking laws reduces the odds that teenagers will commit
alcohol-related crimes as adults, a new study suggests.
State lawmakers have relied heavily on the enforcement of these
zero-tolerance laws -- known as possession of alcohol under the
legal age laws -- to control minors' access to alcohol, researchers
They compiled information on young people aged 15 to 24 from the
FBI's Uniform Crime Reports from 1975 to 2006. Those who were
governed by zero-tolerance underage drinking laws were arrested
less often for vandalism and assault than those who were not
subjected to strict enforcement.
"These findings have important potential implications for public policy," study authors Chris Barnum, Nick Richardson and Robert Perfetti said in a news release. "If tough enforcement of underage drinking by 15- to 20-year-olds has an enduring impact on behavior, then law enforcement's efforts in imposing underage possession laws may be instrumental in reducing both adolescent and subsequent adult drinking and intoxication."
The study, which appeared Feb. 23 in the journal
SAGE Open, suggested that the public arrest of those who are underage for possession of alcohol serves as a deterrent for other teens.
"Young people who are caught and punished for underage possession are less likely to drink in the future than others, and the example of their punishment also serves as a disincentive for their peers," the researchers concluded.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
provides state profiles of
underage drinking laws.
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