Zero Tolerance for Underage Drinking or Possession of Alcohol

Zero tolerance for underage drinking or possession of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or distilled spirits) is currently a popular policy. However, it appears that the well-intentioned practice may be ineffective or even counterproductive. For example, a study by the Indiana Education Policy Center at Indiana University led to the researcher’s conclusion that “zero tolerance is a political response, not an educationally sound solution.”

Popularity of a program or practice does not demonstrate effectiveness. In fact, clearly ineffective programs such as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program continue to receive strong public support.

An overview of zero tolerance practices and evidence of their effectiveness is found at Zero Tolerance.

Additional information about zero tolerance is provided on these pages:



  • Brooke, James. School spreads alcohol policy to wine sips in Paris. New York Times, 1998 (May 31), p. NE12.
  • Campus Report. A pox on mouthwash. Campus Report, 1995 (April), 10, p. 2.
  • Hafezi, P. Alcohol Causes Clerical Alarm in Islamic State. Washington Times, August 7, 2002, A12.
  • Miller, Vanessa. Officials want to get tough on alcohol: Underage drinking focus of law. Iowa City Press-Citizen, 2-18-04
  • Stern, Robert. Princeton drinking T-shirts seized., 4-28-04.
  • Students disciplined after drinking beer in Germany. Akron Beacon Press, 4-24-04.