Lowering the Minimum Drinking Age
Age twenty-one minimum drinking laws are counter-productive. There is much evidence that reducing the drinking age to eighteen or nineteen would reduce the abuse of alcohol among young people. The U.S. has the strictest youth drinking laws in western civilization and yet has the most drinking-related problems among its young. And there seems to be a connection between these two facts. Today, irrefutable scientific evidence supports the fact that the early introduction of drinking is the safest way to reduce juvenile alcohol abuse. Young people in France, Spain, and Argentina rarely abuse alcohol. They learn how to drink within the family, which sees drinking in moderation as natural and normal. Youth in these societies rarely embarrass themselves or their families by abusing alcohol. In Portugal and New Zealand there are no minimum drinking age requirements. In Belgium, most of Canada, Italy, and Spain, young people of sixteen years may consume in restaurants when with parents or another adult. Australia and South Africa have an 18-year minimum. Researchers have pointed out that minimum drinking age laws in the U.S. are a post-Prohibition phenomenon. Prior to the repeal of the Eighteenth amendment (Prohibition), state laws prohibiting minors from possession or use of alcohol were unusual. Adolescent alcohol consumption was regulated by the informal controls of family, community, peers, and self-restraint. The only drinking controls that have enjoyed any success over the centuries are social and cultural constraints. John Cloud wrote, “When I was a teen in the 1930s my peers drank to physical and mental oblivion on weekends to demonstrate their "manhood," and, to a lesser degree, their "womanhood." Alcohol abuse had received new energy as a result of Prohibition. The harvest of forbidden fruit was bitter and disastrous. As we continue to witness the fundamental goodness of our young...
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