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Should U.S. lower drinking age?

(CNN) -- Dwight B. Heath knows what he is about to say will sound a little crazy to most people.

When asked what the minimum legal drinking age should be in the U.S., Heath says 8, or maybe even 6.

No, the Brown University anthropology professor is not advocating getting kids drunk. Instead he favors a cultural model, common in countries like France or Italy, where parents serve small amounts of wine to their children at family meals.

By doing this, he says, parents educate their kids about alcohol and rob drinking of its taboo allure, which can make rebellious teenagers sneak off to basements and backwoods to binge drink far from adult supervision.

"In general, the younger people start to drink the safer they are," said Heath, who has written several books and hundreds of scholarly articles on cultural attitudes towards alcohol. When introduced early, he said, "Alcohol has no mystique. It's no big deal. By contrast, where it's banned until age 21, there's something of the 'forbidden fruit' syndrome."

Of course, Heath's idea has no chance of becoming law anytime soon. Thirty years ago this week, Congress passed a bill that effectively raised the national drinking age to 21. Despite subsequent efforts to lower it in some states -- and the fact that most developed countries allow young people to legally drink at 18 -- that threshold has remained firmly in place ever since.

Proponents of the higher drinking age says it reduces traffic fatalities and alcohol-related accidents while keeping booze out of the hands of teens, whose brains are still developing.

Read more:  CNN

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Washington Times