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Security measures against underage drinking are sensible, but lowering the drinking age moreso

Sophie Long
Contributor

The first few weeks of school have offered a wide variety of activities for students this year, but new students directly from high school suffer when it comes to enjoying many events that include alcohol. For example, there is Wednesday night Dollar Draft, the beer gardens during Welcome Week, and Friday nights at the Owl. This is an issue for students who wish to participate, whether it means having a few drinks, or just being able to socialise with older friends.

Underage drinking is commonplace in Saskatchewan to begin with. According to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s 2009 fact sheet on alcohol abuse among youth, 75 per cent of Grade 12 students in the province have engaged in binge drinking. With the majority of Saskatchewan-born students having been drunk by the time they reach university, the inability to take part in liquor-fueled activities may easily prove frustrating. For some students, it’s frustrating enough to try sneaking into bars or using fake IDs.

Alexis Losie, manager of the Owl, sympathises with students who are left out of the loop due to age.

“The problem is, you have a divide in the school year,” she said. “Half of the students are of age and half are underage. You can’t socialise in a pub or bar if you’re too young to get in.”

Losie may sympathise with students who are left behind in their social groups, but she doesn’t take underage drinking lightly.

“After 9 p.m., we have at least three bouncers at the door,” she said. “And, anytime before then, we will ID you as soon as we see you.”

SGI has caused some difficulty for bar owners and managers lately, with more than one valid type of ID available. However, by the end of the year, driver’s licences will be uniform, and things should become much simpler for bouncers. New licences have information burned into the core of the card, which makes duplicating one impossible. Similarly, the barcode on the back of the new licences contains information from the front of the card, so if law enforcement or a bar or restaurant was to scan the ID, they would find out immediately if you were using a fake.

Losie is serious about not allowing underage drinkers into the Owl, and with reason. The liquor license for the Owl covers all of the campus, so if the Owl were to get a fine for underage drinking, there would be no alcohol allowed on campus at any time. Losie also told horror stories of young girls in the owl.

“There have been girls who are 16 trying to get in here,” she said. “And, when you think about it, there are guys in their late 20s who hang out in here. So, if some girl who is underage comes in and gets drunk because she doesn’t know her limits, she might end up making the wrong decision to go home with one of those older guys.”

While the government in Saskatchewan seems to believe that people suddenly have enough sense to be able to consume alcohol safely the minute they turn 19, both of its neighbouring provinces see things differently. At the age of 18, students in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan are able to vote, attend institutions of higher education, buy cigarettes if they wish, and buy lottery tickets, but only in Saskatchewan are those same students barred from legally purchasing alcohol.

Losie encourages a lower legal drinking age, suggesting it would take pressure off campus bars and give students a fuller experience.

“Kids are drinking at the age of 15 or 16 most of the time,” she said. “And, if they really want to, they can drive a few hours across the border and drink in some small town somewhere, legally, by the age of 18. And there’s probably not going to be a designated driver.”

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