Underage Drinking is Often Legal

It’s commonly believed that it’s against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcoholic beverages in the U.S. That’s simply not so. Many states provide a variety of very important exceptions. Such exceptions typically permit parents to serve their children of any age alcohol, permit those under the age of 21 to consume alcohol for religious purposes, or permit physicians to prescribe alcohol for health purposes.

The state of Wisconsin is a good example:

"XVIII. SALES AND SERVICE OF ALCOHOL BEVERAGES TO UNDERAGE PERSONS An underage person accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse of legal drinking age may be sold or served alcohol beverages in any licensed premises (sec. 125.07(1)).

XIX. POSSESSION OF ALCOHOL BEVERAGES BY UNDERAGE PERSONS An underage person may not possess alcohol beverages anywhere unless accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse of legal drinking age (sec. 125.07(4)(b)." 1

A number of other states provide similar exceptions that permit parents to teach their children moderation toward alcohol.

Many groups around the world have learned how to consume alcohol widely with almost no problems. Those familiar to most Americans include Italians, Jews, Portuguese, Spaniards and Greeks.

In all of these and many other successful groups around the world, education about alcohol starts early and starts in the home. Young people are taught -- through their parents' good example and under their supervision -- that if they drink, they must do so moderately and responsibly.

They would argue that it’s better for young people to learn to drink in their parent’s house than in a fraternity house. And the scientific research supports them. 2


  • 1. http://www.dor.state.wi.us/pubs/03pb302.pdf
  • 2. Hanson, David J. Preventing Alcohol Abuse: Alcohol, Culture, and Control. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995