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Teenage Drinking

Moxie Thompson, Reporter

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Teenage drinking: it’s done in America, and it’s done in France.

Except in France, the laws and consequences aren’t the same. There, the legal drinking age is 16 and in the United States, it’s 21. Regardless, many underage teens do it.

According to Theo Nunes, Rotary Youth Exchange Student from France, it’s a very big part of the teenage culture. Most Americans know how teenagers in the U.S. consume their alcohol, but how do the French drink?

Théo Nunes, Rotary exchange student from France, poses with his French flag after sharing his ideas about what teenage drinking in France is like. Nunes came the Unites States during mid August. (Broadcaster/Moxie Thompson )

Théo Nunes, Rotary exchange student from France, poses with his French flag after sharing his ideas about what teenage drinking in France is like. Nunes came the Unites States during mid August. (Broadcaster/Moxie Thompson )

Nunes explained how the legal age to drink in France is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for other alcohol such as vodka and whiskey. However, according to Nunes, if people are under the age of 18, there is always a way to get hard alcohol, similar to the US.

Nunes eluded that in France, people mainly drink because of the social aspect, like drinking with friends in a pub. They may also drink because they like the taste of alcohol or they find fun in getting drunk with friends.

“It’s [drinking in a pub] something I really miss here. It’s just to go into a bar with some friends and drink a beer… and just meet new people,” Nunes said.

In the U.S., if underage drinkers are caught with alcohol, the consequences could include fines, marks, or community service hours.

Nunes said that in France, the police don’t care very much about underage drinking and that if they were to catch an underaged teenager drinking alcohol, they would probably only call his or her parents.

American teenagers typically drink in their homes or with friends, according to the website Too Smart to Start. In France, they may drink during parties, city events, or after school – when they usually only have a beer.

“It’s like you drink a coke, but a beer,” Nunes said, adding that it’s a typical part of their daily life.

Nunes explained that, similar to the U.S., when people his age drink, they may laugh and some people might throw up, but that’s rare. He said that during parties, there are always people who don’t drink because they need to drive. If teenagers in France are going to a nightclub, they will often have a designated driver who doesn’t drink so that they are able to drive safely afterwards, said Nunes.

A big part of the issue with underage drinking in the U.S. is drunk driving. A study from www.chooseresponsibility.org revealed, “‘Between 1970 and 1975, 29 states lowered their minimum drinking ages. Meanwhile, 13 states kept the legal age at 21.’ Researchers found a marked increase in alcohol-related teen car crashes in the states with reductions. ‘Once the 21 age was restored…alcohol-involved highway crashes immediately declined in this age group.’”

Nunes does not know anyone who has gotten seriously sick or injured, other than throwing up, from drinking. However, some people may get a stomachache or headache afterwards, he added.

According to Catherine Hill, an author of a report regarding France in the European Journal of Public Health, “Alcohol is an important cause of premature mortality as it is responsible for 22 percent (almost a quarter) of deaths between 15 and 34 years of age, 18 percent (almost one in five) of deaths between 35 and 64 and 7 percent of deaths of over-65s.”

Alcohol is usually very risky.

Nunes also thinks that alcohol can be a negative if you abuse it, but if you drink responsibly and only drink when you’re with others, it can be okay for some people.

In Nunes’ opinion, France has a good legal drinking age, but he believes the legal age should be lowered in the U.S.

“If you don’t know how to drink,” Nunes said, “and if you don’t know your limits… when you get drunk… some people can be aggressive and [make] a lot of mistakes…”

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