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In Great Britain, 5-year-olds are allowed to booze it up in the comforts of their homes while here in the United States, 18-year-old freshmen violate the law if they sneak vodka into their dorms.

Like that makes sense.

While the drinking policies of other European countries aren’t that extreme, this shows 18- to 20-year-olds here that U.S. drinking laws leave something to be desired.

But if it’s left up to more than 100 college and university presidents, toddlers in England won’t always have the upper hand on ASU 101 students anymore — except for the fact that the kids probably get a naptime.

The heads of a number of higher-education institutions are supporting debates to lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 through an organization called the Amethyst Initiative. According to their Web site, the current drinking age “is not working” and has “created a culture of dangerous binge drinking.”

Whether it’s legal or not, alcohol is a constant in our society’s youth culture, and keeping this age limit is as pointless as keeping a small lion as a pet: It’ll bite you in the ass.

I’m not suggesting the United States take it to the extreme and drop the drinking age to 5 or 10, but it’s time for our lawmakers to be realistic.

President Reagan originally upped the legal drinking age to 21 in 1984 for a reason, and a good reason: Mothers Against Drunk Driving believed the heightened age limit would reduce alcohol- related accidents.

But, really, increasing the age hasn’t meant that alcohol is in the hands of the more mature people; it just means that children and teenagers will mature without understanding how to safely handle alcohol.

Growing up in a European-style household, I’ve gotten used to the idea of seeing my parents with a glass of wine at dinner or a beer to cool down with on a hot day.

When in Italy this summer, I saw a group of teenagers out to dinner ordering wine with dinner — no biggie.

When I saw underage Americans in European bars, they went nuts trying to scarf down as much beer or vodka as they could, much to the amusement of the locals.

What’s the big difference?

Take a look at the general notion of drinking in America, where alcohol plays two very different roles: On one hand, we’re taught by our grade-school health teachers — who know 70 percent of their students drink anyway — that it is one of the biggest blights on our society; on the other hand, we’re shown that it is a way to be accepted by our peers.

What we really need is re-education on how to handle alcohol.

Studies have shown that illegal activities are more tempting than legal ones, so reducing the age limit to 18 will definitely eliminate some of the “forbidden-fruit” mentality that slyly encourages underage drinkers to tip back another bottle, or keg, of beer.

For one thing, introducing an 18-year-old to legally available alcohol gives him or her the chance to experiment while still under the relative shelter of high school, instead of doing the same in the often-shocking freedom of college.

But alcohol education is not all that should be considered before the law is changed. America’s infrastructure needs to be improved to support the initial overflow of drinkers.

After all, a big alcohol-related safety factor for Europeans is that the majority of European population centers have good public transportation — no one really has to drive after coming out of a pub at two or three in the morning.

Infrastructure and education aside, another reason to lower the drinking age is that, for a country in a recession, bars would likely see a dramatic influx in student customers. In economically strenuous times, alcohol is one commodity that definitely keeps on bringing in the dough.

The drinking age should certainly be lowered. The current law is not helping America’s youth; it just makes us more immature in the global arena.

Make the drinking age 18. Make it even younger — if America is willing to demonstrate safe drinking by example.

Oh, and if we can take one more lesson from British 5-year-olds by making nap time a mandatory class for college students ­— well, that would be good, too.

Indra is signing up for NAP 101. If you’d like to join, e-mail her at

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