Legal 18-Year-Old Drinking Age Laws

Topics: Legal drinking age, National Minimum Drinking Age Act, Drinking culture Pages: 7 (2639 words) Published: May 11, 2002
I. Introduction and Description of Problem (APX 2 PAGES) 1) Statement of the Problem: (5 pts)
Eighteen-year olds throughout the United States are considered legal adults in almost every way, with one notable exception: the privilege of having an alcoholic beverage. In every state, eighteen-year olds are legally permitted to drive, live as they choose, and work where they choose. Eighteen-year olds pay taxes as other adults do, are subject to all criminal and civil laws, and are punished, jailed and even executed for crimes they might commit against such laws. They are also permitted to hold most local, state and federal government public offices, and can sponsor and pass new laws if elected. Again, the only exception to complete adult rights is a prohibition against an eighteen-year old buying or enjoying a beer or other type of alcoholic beverage anywhere in the United States. Many countries elsewhere throughout the world have lower drinking ages or no age limitation or prohibition at all on consumption of alcoholic beverages. Interestingly, these countries likewise have lower incidences of abuse, lower death rates in automobile accidents, and lower arrest rates for alcohol-related offenses than in the US. Both Canada and Mexico, as examples, have legal 18-year old drinking age laws, and have abuse indices well below those in the US. Likewise, the Italians, Chinese, German, Austrian, and French have for years allowed for younger adults to purchase and consume alcohol. Again, social and criminal problems among 18-21 year olds in these countries are much smaller in number and severity as opposed to those in the US. Sociological and psychological researchers studying this problem attribute the difference to the various countries' accepted methods for mentoring "acceptable" behavior." Their premise is that we in the US tend to rely on the force of law as a deterrent to bad behavior, rather than our families teaching acceptable behavior (including drinking) in adult settings. Even between states in the US, patterns of alcohol-related injuries point to proof of an age/alcohol bias among our legislators. It has been proven that when two similar jurisdictions (e.g., Wisconsin vs. Illinois in the 1980's; Vermont vs. Other New England states in the early 1980's; and New York vs. Quebec in the mid-1980's), the one with the lower drinking age had a lower rate of alcohol-related fatalities. The problem, therefore, is not the drinking age itself. Instead, the breakdown in teaching of acceptable behavior, standards, and morals, combined with the stubbornness to examine these facts legislatively, are the real difficulties. These problems are solved in establishing secure family life, not in legislating of an unfair drinking age limitation of 21. Denying an 18-year old the privilege of "having a beer" while applauding that same 18-year old's participation in potentially mortal combat in an Afghanistan cave as an active duty soldier is an irony worth study. This unfair issue deserves national attention. Because Congress cannot effectively pass a law that establishes a secure family life for all Americans, it can at least "right a wrong" by repealing the 21-year old restriction. Passage of a national 18-year old drinking age law brings about essential fairness, finally permitting full adult rights to those now considered adults in every other way possible. 2) Legislative History of this Issue

There have been numerous related bills in Congress covering the issue of underage drinking in the United States. The first of these were a series of prohibition bills in the 1850's, followed by the national prohibition bills in the 1920's, then several bills in the recent decades, a few of which are covered below. The main issue in each of these bills involved limiting of alcohol altogether, though each also included issues dealing with establishment of a legal age at which alcohol could be or was consumed....
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