by Emmy Liederman
If you look inside the bag of a typical high school student, you might find a pack of gum or a few pencils. If you dig a little deeper, you may even find a small plastic card which identifies that student as John Smith, a 21-year-old from Missouri.
The use of fake IDs is common among teenagers, and this remains true in the halls of WHS. With a drinking age of 21 and a widespread high school drinking culture, many teens view a fake ID as a viable option.
According to a Hi’s Eye survey of 100 students, 79 percent of students know someone who has a fake ID, while 52 percent said that they have considered buying one themselves.
It doesn’t take much more than a Google search to obtain a fake ID. “Most people buy fake IDs in big groups online, and I have heard that they can cost at least $50,” said junior Nina Alameno.
According to nj.gov, New Jersey law states that when juveniles are convicted of possessing or selling a fake ID, they may face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000 and a mandatory suspension of their driver’s license.
But just because there are consequences, that doesn’t mean people are getting caught. Mr. Chris Barsa, Westfield resident and former owner of the New York City bar The Wharf, admits that some places can be more lenient than others. “Our main business came from working people of age, but some bars that need the business of underage drinkers turn their cheek on IDs,” Barsa said. “They think the only way they’re gonna pack the place.”
The use of fake IDs is a widespread issue, but the question is whether it’s a result of the legal drinking age or an inevitable part of growing up.
According to the same Hi’s Eye survey, 58 percent of WHS students think the drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18, with many holding the argument that illegalizing something doesn’t stop it from happening—it only drives it underground.
“Dating back to Prohibition, [our country] has a history of a really secretive drinking culture. We feel the need to drink too much and do it quietly so you can’t get help when you need it,” said junior Katherine Whipple.
Barsa also recognized how a high drinking age can be dangerous: “When the drinking age is raised, kids are out in a basement or in the woods drinking too much and no one can see them. If they were allowed to drink in my bar, we would stop serving them if they had too much to drink.”
While many recognize the benefits of a lower drinking age, others think this change would harm teens.
In 1984, Mothers Against Drunk Driving first lobbied to make all states raise their drinking age to 21 or lose 10 percent of their annual federal highway funding. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act saves an estimated 17,000 lives per year, according to the organization’s website.
“When the drinking age was raised, traffic fatalities dropped. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens,” said Health Teacher Ms. Susan Kolesar. “Kids need to get the driving thing down for a couple years before adding alcohol to the mix.”
Whether it’s the result of a certain drinking age or just a part of teenage culture, the majority of WHS students know someone who has a fake ID. It’s clear that this issue is not going away anytime soon.