Lowering The Drinking Age
The legal drinking age in the United States is set at twenty-one years of age. I believe that considering twenty-one as the legal age of maturity is absurd. Who is it to say that just because an individual is twenty-one means that they are mature enough to consume alcohol in a responsible manner? Changing the legal drinking age to eighteen should be imposed. Eighteen year-old individuals can take on many adult responsibilities, but they do not have the right to consume alcohol. Many people feel this is unfair while others disagree and think it’s best. There is a huge controversy over whether to keep the legal drinking age at twenty-one, or to lower it to the legal age of adulthood, eighteen. Congress passed the National Minimum Purchase Age Act in 1984. This law was passed to push each state to alter their legal drinking age to twenty-one years of age. The congress thought that if they increased the minimum drinking age that it would save a substantial number of lives each year. They assumed that a twenty-one year old individual was more mature than the usual eighteen year-old. That, in my honest opinion, was a big mistake. Just because an individual lives to be twenty-one does not define how mature they are. For instance, there are many teenagers in the world that are noticeably more mature than the typical twenty-one year-old. The deciding factor of legality in drinking should not be age, but relatively maturity and ability to handle responsibility. 4,6 The twenty-one restriction look as if it’s out of date in today’s society. Many guardians of today’s teenagers were legally permitted to drink at the age of eighteen. Teenagers today face more responsibility and are treated much differently from the way their parents were treated. If twenty-one is considered so mature, then why is eighteen considered an adult? At the age of eighteen, an individual can vote, serve on a jury, stay out without a curfew, leave home, drive, smoke, buy weapons, take part in financial contracts, start a family, be sent to adult prison, join the army, and even die for this country. If an eighteen year-old can be accountable to so many responsibilities, then it appears unfair to say that they are not old enough to drink. At eighteen, an individual can even have a sealed container of alcohol in their possession, but they cannot drink it. Setting the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol is impractical in today’s world. Prohibiting the sale of alcohol to people under the age of twenty-one may cause unsafe actions such as binge drinking and alcohol abuse. Prohibiting this age group from drinking in bars, restaurants, and other licensed locations causes them to drink in unsupervised places such as fraternity houses or house parties where they may be more prone to binge drinking and other unsafe behavior. Keeping the age at twenty-one makes it seem as if an eighteen year-old is not an actual adult. Drinking is then perceived as a desirable activity since it is only for adults. In life, people want what they can’t have. Then, in rebellion, those underage will just find another way to obtain alcohol. For instance, many have fake identification cards, steal alcohol from their parents’ alcohol stash, or even put another individual at risk by asking someone who is twenty-one to illegally purchase the alcohol for the underage teenagers. This kind of cunning attitude does not encourage responsible drinking habits. Lastly, this gives young individuals the urge to drink significantly more when they get older so that they could make up for their so-called lost time, causing alcoholism. 3,4 The argument against lowering the legal drinking age has many issues. Studies show that there was a 13 percent decline in the number of single-vehicle nighttime crashes among eighteen through twenty year-olds after the drinking age was raised to twenty-one.2 I believe that there will always be people that will drink and drive, and there is nothing anyone can do to absolutely stop it. The answer is not to raise the drinking age, but rather to educate more thoroughly the dangers of drinking alcohol to the young teenagers. The United States is one of the few countries with such a prohibitive drinking age. In Europe, teenagers learn how to drink gradually, not excessively. For example, in Italy, children at a young age such as seven years old are able to take sips of wine from their parents glass and gradually increase the amount of alcohol over a couple years. This leads to significantly less experimentation of alcohol abuse starting in the teenage years. In France, Spain and Portugal, the consumption of alcohol is greater than in the United States, but the rate of alcoholism and alcohol abuse is still lower. That is the effect of educated and gradual drinking. 3 The government has plenty of reasons to keep the drinking age at twenty-one but in some eyes they aren’t very strong reasons when compared to other activities an eighteen year-old can do. Some studies show that alcohol consumption can interfere with development of the young adult brain's frontal lobes, essential for functions such as emotional regulation, planning, and organization. When alcohol consumption interferes with this early adult brain development, the potential for chronic problems such as greater vulnerability to addiction, dangerous risk-taking behavior, reduced decision-making ability, memory loss, depression, violence, and suicide is greater. In addition, because teens are simultaneously undergoing physical changes, peer pressure, and new situations and urges, allowing them to consume alcohol can make them more vulnerable to drug and substance abuse, unplanned and unprotected sex, depression, violence and other social ills. Another proposed con is when teens drink alcohol, they are more likely to binge drink than people above the age of 21, thus demonstrating that teens are more prone to alcohol abuse than older demographics and should not be allowed to consume alcohol. But again, this is merely because people want what they can’t have. Furthermore, lower drinking ages to 16, 17, or 18 like the drinking age in some European countries is inappropriate for U.S. standards because American teens generally start driving at earlier ages and drive more often than their European counterparts. American teens are thus much more likely to drive under the influence of alcohol if the drinking age were lowered in the U.S. Last but not least as for cons, the earlier a person begins alcohol use, the greater the chances are of that person becoming an alcoholic later in life.1,3,5 Learning how to drink in a safe and sensible manner is more important than worrying about the age of the individual. I believe that the arguments that were made as far as the number of car crashes there were after the legal drinking age was raised was just a coincidence. People of all ages get into car accidents. Instead of confining the eighteen year-old adults, the government should set up ways to better educate the public of the hazards and responsibilities that come with drinking. The arguments against lowering the age of the National Minimum Purchase Age Act are inadequate compared to the benefits of having the drinking age changed to eighteen. Since the number twenty-one has no real basis of maturity, the government should have kept the legal drinking age where it was and kept the public educated rather than taking a right away from the adults under the age of twenty-one.
1) "Pros and cons of lowering the drinking age." Glens Falls Post-Star. 30 Jan. 2010. 14 Apr. 2013 <http://poststar.com/pros-and-cons-of-lowering-the-drinking-age/article_8334b636-0e12-11df-8d80-001cc4c002e0.html>. 2) Hingson. "MLDA Evidence 18-20 Years Old." Apr. 1981. <http://www.thecommunityguide.org/mvoi/aid/supportingmaterials/SETMLDALaws.pdf>. 3) "Drinking Age ProCon.org." Drinking Age ProCon.org. 14 Apr. 2013 <http://drinkingage.procon.org/>. 4) "PRO: Lower legal age would take away 'coolness' of drinking - FlipSide - The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports -." PRO: Lower legal age would take away 'coolness' of drinking - FlipSide - The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports -. 14 Apr. 2013 <http://www.wvgazette.com/Entertainment/FlipSide/201103031002>. 5) "CON: Lowering the drinking age would increase accessibility." The Patriot :. 14 Apr. 2013 <http://www.jcpatriot.com/opinion/2011/04/27/con-lowering-the-drinking-age-would-increase-accessibility/>. 6) "Alcohol: Problems and Solutions." The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. 14 Apr. 2013 <http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/YouthIssues/1092767630.html>.