The widespread problem of underage drinking is getting special attention from state lawmakers. Senator Michael Gibbons of Kirkwood remembers his son going through those difficult high school years, when a lot of his friend had drinking problems or drinking and driving problems and his concern grew. A joint House and Senate committee is holding hearings on the various responsible-drinking programs that various companies and groups support as well as laws intended to curb youthful drinking. Gibbons says it almost seems to be a rite of passage, although he’s not ready to accept the assertion that a lot of children start drinking at age 12. He says there’s no doubt that a lot of 15 and 16 year olds are drinking. Gibbons doesn’t know how dry lawmakers can make the situation or whether new laws or harsher punishments are the answer. Three more hearings are scheduled (including one in Kansas City next Tuesday) before the committee tries to assess where it is and where Missouri needs to be on this issue.