Laws Would Permit Underage Adults in Military to Drink Alcoholic Beverages

A proposed law in South Carolina would permit adults age 18 or older to consume alcohol legally in the state.

State Representative Fletcher Smith argues that adults judged mature enough to serve in the military and put their lives at risk for their country should be judged mature enough to enjoy a drink.

A similar law has been proposed in Kentucky by State Representative David Floyd, who also argues that men and women who put themselves in harm's way for their country should have the right to have a drink

Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) say that "the 21 minimum drinking age law is not about rights and responsibilities. It's a public health and safety issue."

Opponents argue that the laws would mean a 10% loss of federal highway funding. But the federal age 21 law only calls for the prohibition by states of the purchase or public possession of alcohol by those under age 21, not its consumption. That is, it does not require the prohibition of private consumption.

Alternatively, the state laws could specify that public possession by military adults of any age would remain illegal but could decriminalize it and prohibit the imposition of fines or any other form of punishment. In this way, the states would conform to federal requirements while enabling military adults the right to enjoy alcoholic beverages.


  • Maria Ansari. Bill filed to lower drinking age for active duty military. Station WAVE3, January 9, 2008.
  • Chuck Crumbo. S.C. bill would lower military drinking age. Houston Chronicle, February 9, 2008.
  • Katie Crawford. Proposed SC law would allow military personnel under 21 to drink. Television station WCSC, January 30, 2008.
  • Carli Rasch. South Carolina debates lowering drinking age for military personnel. Daily Gamecock, February 6, 2008.