Today in Japanese class, we discussed a newspaper article that was reporting on the replacing all the alcohol vending machines in Japan with card operated ones within five years so that minors can't get hold of alcohol. The article was printed at least 8 years ago. Last i looked, coin operated beer machines were still all over in Japan. That I think, says it all about how serioiusly Japan takes underage drinking. :-p
Seriously speaking, I don't think underage drinking is such a problem compared to smoking in Japan. Almost everyone in Japan smokes. Seriously. I think the smoker to non-smoker rate must be at least 70 percent. It's kinda scary walking around in a crowd and hoping no one accidentally brushes against you holding a cigarette. Last semester when I was in Kyoto, they started an ad series to try and curb smoking esp. among youngsters but I don't think they're focusing on the health issues enough. Most people in Japan, esp. the youngsters, don't start smoking knowing what they're doing to their lungs.
Back to Alcohol though, it's actually interesting why the US has such a problem with underage drinking even though they have the strictest laws regarding drink - you can't drink till you're over 21. I suspect two reasons. One is that families in the US seldom drink. I mean most of us have drank sips of wine back home on special occasions or things like that and so we grow used to the idea of alcohol. It's not taboo or forbidden. Whereas in America, maybe underage drinking is such a big problem precisely because it's seen as a mark of rebellion, doing something that is forbidden. Someone else in class mentioned that because most europeans drink at home, by the time they're old enough to get alcohol, they know their own limits and thus problems such as alcohol poisoning and drunk driving don't arise. I wonder.
It would be nice to walk around in college without some random drunk guys spoiling my night :-p