Most Americans would agree that underage drinking is a national health issue which must be addressed. Too many young adults perish every year from drunk-driving accidents, alcohol poisoning and other alcohol related incidents. The estimated social cost of underage drinking in America is fifty-three billion dollars a year (McCardell 1). According to a survey completed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Fifty percent of teens between twelve and sixteen have consumed alcohol in the last thirty days” (Jacinto 1). Something must be done to correct this problem and protect the young adults of our nation.
The drinking age was ultimately raised to twenty-one nationwide with the passing of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 (McCardell 1). While it does not mandate a national drinking age limit of twenty-one years of age, it does, however, limit national funding for highways in states which choose to recognize a drinking age that is below twenty-one years of age (McCardell). This limit is one of the highest in the world as most European nations choose to set their drinking limit at eighteen years of age (Jacinto 1). In 1978, the US District court found that drinking is not a “fundamental right” and that the current drinking age has a “rational basis” backed by scientific research (ProCon.org 1). While many rights such as the right to vote and serve in the military begin at eighteen, there are also several other rights which do not begin until the age of twenty-one such as the right to gamble, purchase a handgun, and adopt a child (ProCon.org 1).
Those that believe in lowering the drinking age often preach that our current message of “abstinence” is clearly not working (McCardell 1). Some seventy-five percent of twelfth graders, sixty-six percent of tenth graders and forty percent of eighth graders have consumed alcohol (McCardell 1). According to a Gallup survey, fifty-four percent of teenagers say they have no problem procuring alcohol. (Jacinto 1). Alcohol is consumed more often than either tobacco or illegal drugs by teenagers, according to the Institute of Medicine (McCardell 1). They believe that by lowering the drinking age we can take the “thrill” away from drinking for those who are currently drinking underage.
One of the biggest groups supporting this solution to the problem is the Amethyst Initiative. It was formed by one hundred and thirty college and university presidents who believe that the current drinking age has created a culture of binge drinking on college campuses (McCardell 1). It has forced college students, who are going to drink regardless of the drinking age limit, to move into underground and off-campus locations that are outside the supervision of parents and the school (McCardell 1). They believe that lowering the drinking age will bring these young adults back into the public eye and ultimately make drinking less “attractive” (McCardell 1).
While some Americans believe that lowering the drinking age from twenty-one to eighteen will help to solve this problem, I disagree with this line of thinking. Lowering the drinking age is not a good solution to the problem of underage drinking. To do so, would only serve to make alcohol more accessible to teenagers in our high schools. Many studies have been done on the adolescent brain to confirm that those under twenty-one are not emotionally or physically mature enough to handle the effects of alcohol (Jacinto 1). Lastly, The age limit of twenty-one has been scientifically proven to have saved lives.
Seventy-two percent of Americans are in agreement that lowering the drinking age will only contribute to the accessibility of alcohol for teenagers according to a Nationwide Insurance poll (Mooney 1). Currently teenagers cannot walk into an establishment which sells alcohol and purchase what they want. They often resort to the “shoulder-tap” method in which they ask a stranger...