Surprise! Underage Drinking in New York Among Lowest in Nation

By Kenneth Garger 08/16/11

But plenty of New York youngsters still hit the booze and the "gateway" theory holds water, says new study.

Not necessarily the norm Photo via

Not surprisingly, many underage New York City kids drink, reveals a new study, but oddly they drink less than their counterparts because apparently, the range of urban activities on offer in Manhattan reduces the rate. One third of the city's 14 to 20-year-olds currently consume alcohol—defined as having at least one drink in the last 30 days. And 44% of these young drinkers admitted to binging—five or more drinks at one sitting—within that time-frame, according to the Orwellian-sounding NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Cause for concern, perhaps, but it may surprise some that the rate of underage drinking in NYC is well below that of the US as a whole: 42% of the nation's youth are on the booze compared with 32% in the Big Apple. So why is this? Yesterday's New York Post reported: “Research demonstrates that the diverse, vibrant environments (arts, sports, other cultural activities) of urban landscapes such as NYC appear to reduce the likelihood of youth initiation to or use of psychoactive substances, such as alcohol and drugs.” The study also supported alcohol's credentials as a "gateway drug." Of the adolescents who 'fessed up to drinking, 35% also reported smoking marijuana, while just 5% of their sober counterparts admitted to using pot. Additionally, 9% of current drinkers have taken cocaine, 11% have tried ecstasy, and 6% have used methamphetamine. Fewer than 1% of non-drinkers have used those “harder” substances.

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Ken Garger is a reporter for the New York Post. You can follow him on Twitter.