The U.S. has the drinking problem. The young people, especially the college students, drink in excessive ways that have dangerous and damaging effect. Many people say the best way for combat this problem is to keep the Minimum Legal Drinking Age, or the MLDA, for 21 years and older adults. They argue the worst thing is to encourage more young people to drink alcohol because this will cause more risky behavior and even more deaths, as from traffic fatalities. Of course, it is not positive trend for young people to drink the alcohol. But the reasons to change MLDA from 21 to younger age are not to say to the youth that they should be having the alcohol. In reality, there is problem because the young people are drinking the alcohol already and they are drinking too much. Although teenage drinking is not good thing, the legal age for drinking in U.S. should be lowered from 21 unto 18.
First and foremost, the law for drinking at 21 is difficult for enforce. In U.S., high school students are drinking. Studies show majority start before having 21 years. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services records the statistic of 72 percent of Americans aged 18 to 20 report they used alcohol in the last year (Muhlenfeld par. 4). The public know about this problem. As Jessica Ogilvie states, “It's no secret that people drink alcohol before they turn 21. Stories about binge drinking on college campuses and alcohol-fueled high school parties are as easy to find as the Facebook photos that document them” (par. 1).
Second of all, attempts to stop the drinking behavior for the young people on college campus have not been success. Instead, college students do some of the most dangerous drinking. B.G. Fitzpatrick and fellow research team documents how much they are drinking these days on campus, and concludes “Heavy episodic drinking (HED) is generally conducted in private, among peers, and college students engage in the behavior in much higher proportions than do other young adults” (par. 1). Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, herself a college president, talks about how sad consequences of this behavior. She says: Every day, we see the tragic costs of that culture. It is the lucky college president who has not had to telephone parents to report that their child has been the victim of date rape exacerbated by alcohol abuse, or killed in an automobile accident coming back from an alcohol-fueled all-night party (par. 5).
Clearly, this is terrible situation. Saylor lists the several problems that are cause by heavy alcohol use with American college students, including, death, injury, dangerous sexual behavior, violence, poor academic performance, and increased chances of the alcohol abuse as adulthood (par. 2). The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism lists tragic results from the underage drinking in U.S., which is approximately 1,700 deaths, 599,000 injuries, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault every year (Muhlenfeld par. 7).
In addition, the policy of making young drinking illegal is part of problem creating dangerous situation for college students and other youth in U.S. The problem is explained by Dr. David J. Hanson, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Potsdam. Dr. Hanson says the MLDA of 21 is effective policy for making situation where fewer young adults drink, but this is not really good thing. Ones who are drinking alcohol do it in secret, and therefore do more of the drinking excess type that will cause problems for health and future of those kids (qtd. by Ogilvie par. 9). Statistics give good evidence for this theory. For instance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when people younger than 21 drink alcohol, 90 percent of the alcohol they are drinking is from binge drinking (O’Connor par. 10).
Why does secret drinking become immoderate? Some experts say it is because young people are teaching other young people drinking habits. In Europe, the MLDA is usually lower as 21 or maybe there is no MLDA at all. The binge drinking is less in those places. Susan Minton states, “While French or Italian children learn to think of alcohol as part of a meal, American teens learn to drink in the unmonitored environment of a basement or the backwoods with their friends” (par. 5). Fitzpatrick says there is the research literature to show that individuals will drink what they think is normal, so if they think binge is normal they will be likely binge like that too (par. 3).
The problem of drinking on college campus is so bad these days that many important people want to change MLDA of 21. Over 130 chancellors and presidents of the colleges and universities signed the Amethyst Group petition of 2008, which is asking legislators to think about changing the MLDA from 21 to younger age (Ogilvie par. 3). Anahad O’Connor notes the Amethyst Group does not say they want to lower drinking age, but they show which is their real opinion by describing only what they say are problems with drinking age at 21, not any good things about this policy (par. 4). The Amethyst Group is not only group with this idea. Choose Responsibility is a non-profit group founded by former college president. Like Amethyst Initiative, this group thinks to lower the MLDA would be good thing but they add extra idea, which is to require a special license for people under 21. Those young drinkers would need alcohol education classes to get this license (Saylor par. 3).
Another thing to consider is issue of rights. Minton notes that in U.S., people gain all rights of being adult when they have 18 years, such as the right of voting, getting married, and signing contracts (par. 2). Maybe it is not good for young people to be having the drink. But the young people think breaking law is okay because so many laws say they can do many other things as adult with the adult rights. Minton expressed this idea when she/he asked, “Why do we consider 18-year-olds old enough to join the military, to fight and die for our country, but not to have a drink with their friends before they ship out or while they’re home on leave?” (par. 1)
Beside all these reasons, there are the strong arguments for never lower the MLDA. In past, some states had the MLDA of 21 but others had MLDA that was lower age than that. At 1984, Congress passed the Federal Underage Drinking Act and this law says states that do not have the MLDA of 21 will not get money for transportation. This law had effect of all U.S. states passing laws for MLDA of 21 (Miron par. 8).
Many groups believe the result was saving lives of many young people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a famous group believes the minimum legal drinking age should be 21 because this policy is a safe one. Other groups which believe same thing are National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Office of the US Surgeon General, and Governors Highway Safety Association (Wechsler par. 20). In addition, at 2007, the Gallup poll discovered the fact of 77 percent of Americans oppose changing the MLDA to lower ages (O’Connor par. 8).
Why do these people hold this strong opinion? Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers. Several studies in the 1970s found that motor vehicle crashes among teens increased significantly when MLDA was lowered (AMA par. 1). This is why the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, has opinion the MLDA of 21 should not change (Muhlenfeld par. 3).
However, the more recent research suggested the traffic fatalities are not really prevented by MLDA of 21. Muhlenfeld states that the lower rates for alcohol-related vehicular deaths is result of better highways, safer cars, better laws for requiring seatbelt using, in some of the areas stronger punishing for people who drive after drinking the alcohol, and more knowledge in the public about danger of driving while drinking. Muhlenfeld sees support for this idea in other industrialized places like Europe where they saw same changes as U.S. but have higher MLDA (par. 9). Minton makes same argument and she notes Germany had the drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities from 1975 to 1990, which is about same time as drop for U.S., but the MLDA for German people is 16 (par. 8).
Furthermore, some studies show the MLDA of 21 was only help for some states in U.S. Jeffrey Miron and Elina Tetelbaum talk about research that was comparing fatalities from accidents in states that changed MLDA from 18 to 21 as independent action and the states that made MLDA of 21 law because of FUDAA. There was big difference, with the states that made the MLDA of 21 in independent way having big life-saving change at time of law but other states having very little change (par. 7-8). Miron and Tetelbaum conclude, “The results are striking. Virtually all the life-saving impact of the MLDA21 comes from the few early-adopting states, not from the larger number that resulted from federal pressure” (par. 10).
Without the doubt, the MLDA of 21 should also be change because it does not receive good enforcements. The AMA supports the MLDA of 21 but they have found research to suggest the MLDA of 21 has “little or no enforcement” from police in U.S. (par. 7). They cite a study about how police enforce MLDA of 21 and found many of 295 counties did not take actions about the law frequently (par. 8). Like this, Muhlenfeld explain the reason she support a lower MLDA when she wrote, “We know this issue is fraught with pain and frustration. But we also know that 21 simply isn’t working” (Muhlenfeld par. 4).
In conclusion, the MLDA in U.S. should be changed to 18. First reason to change is sad fact that young people are ignoring this law. They are not only drinking but drinking in dangerous, excessive way that has terrible consequence for their health and future. The secret nature of drinking for young people is part of why they drink in immoderate way. This trend will not be ended soon. Young people think it is the right to drink alcohol at eighteen because that is when they receive other rights as adult. Also, in many places there is little action for enforcement of the MLDA of 21. The new law can include ideas to encourage responsible drinking for young people who choose to drink the alcohol. For example, the Choose Responsibility idea of license to drink for the youth is the very good idea. There can be solutions for young people and their dangerous drinking. These solutions should start with reality thinking, and that means making alcohol legal for Americans once they have 18 years.
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