Monday, February 11, 2008

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A state lawmaker wants to give members of the armed forces younger than 21 the right to buy alcohol even though it’s in contrast to the military’s efforts to diminish underage drinking and related accidents.

“I really don’t think it should create a problem for the military. It might even enhance their morale,” Rep. Fletcher N. Smith Jr. said last week.

State law prohibits the sale or possession of alcohol by anyone younger than 21. In 1984, South Carolina raised the drinking age to 21 from 18 to comply with federal law. Mr. Smith acknowledged that South Carolina would risk losing federal highway money if his legislation is approved, but he insisted that the change is needed.

“It’s absurd that people serving in the military are trained to kill on the battlefield but at the same time couldn’t come back home and have a beer,” the Greenville Democrat said. “If you’re old enough to get training in the U.S. military, you should be old enough to get a beer. That training really matures a person.”

Rep. Grady A. Brown, who served in the South Carolina Air National Guard, said he would support the bill.

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