SC House minority leader explains why he wants to lower the drinking age

Southeast Region

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Soon, South Carolinians may not have to be 21 to enjoy an adult beverage, thanks to a new bill that aims to change South Carolina’s drinking age from 21 to 18.

The bill’s sponsor, House minority leader Todd Rutherford, said he hopes the bill would get young people started on healthy drinking habits earlier. He cited low DUI and alcoholism rates in countries with younger drinking ages as proof that it could lead to a better relationship with alcohol.

“We need to start looking at things that we’ve done simply because it’s always been the way it’s been done,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford said he chose to introduce the bill this year because it could jeopardize around $38 million worth of federal highway funding.

“South Carolina, according to the BEA estimate yesterday, is going to have around $2 billion to spend in non-recurring funds and $1 billion in recurring funds,” Rutherford said. “We have more money than we have ever had.”

He said apps like Uber and Lyft have made it easier than ever to avoid drinking and driving and he wants young people to get used to using them for their nights out.

“We have the science, we have the technology,” Rutherford said. “Let’s utilize it and stop infringing on people’s personal freedoms.”

Francis Marion University freshman Mason Knight is only 18 years old, but he said the current laws have not stopped people his age from drinking.

“I mean, you can still get your hands on it if you want it bad enough,” Knight said.

He said young people who want to drink just have to be sneaky instead.

“You have to get it past authorities and try to be safe until you are of that legal age,” Knight said.

“We have turned college-age children into criminals,” Rutherford said. “They can join the military and go off to war, they can sign up for crippling student loan debt, but not be able to drink a beer? I think that is ridiculous.”

South Carolina’s drinking age was raised to 21 from 18 in 1984. The bill will be up for debate when the legislature reconvenes in January.

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