In today’s society it is legal for an 18 year old to vote, be enlisted in the military, serve jury duty, buy tobacco products, live on their own and support themselves. Yet after all of that responsibility, these young adults are still not given the privilege to enjoy a few beers here and there. The current drinking age in the United States is 21 years of age, a controversial issue for many. The issue is exceptionally debatable and many people believe the drinking age should be lowered to the age of 18. Many college and university presidents disagree with the current legal drinking age and have come to the conclusion that outlawing alcohol to students under 21 makes the drinking problem worse! The national drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18 because it would result in a decrease of binge drinking and allow for more supervised alcohol consumption. The prohibition has proven to be counterproductive; the responsibilities that 18-year-olds assume merit the right to drink and it would lead to more responsible drinking on college campuses. The debate may come across as farfetched but there are a few aspects to consider before reaching a final decision. In the article “States weigh lowering drinking age.” By Judy Keen she explains how “A 2007 Gallup Poll found that 77% of Americans oppose lowering the drinking age to 18.” At the age of 18 a person is legally considered an adult and automatically inherits a number of rights and responsibilities. It is not fair that a man or a woman can risk his or her life fighting for our country enlisting in the military, but is not considered to be mature enough to be able to purchase or drink alcohol. We hold 18 year olds to be responsible enough to vote on important government positions and to serve in a jury deciding someone’s legal fate. It is also strange that the United States claims that 18 year olds are legally responsible for themselves. These young adults are given the option to live on their own and force them to support themselves. If an 18 year old commits a crime they can potentially go to jail for the rest of their life. Most States give a 16 year old the privilege of driving a motor vehicle without a parent or legal guardian. When a kid is behind the wheel they are capable of doing unthinkable damage and have control of countless lives at their hands. This is by far a greater responsibility than drinking alcohol. Many would conclude that all of those rights are more important than the right to drink. If 18 year olds are released out into the real world and given all of that pressure then no one should be able to say that they are not mature enough to handle alcohol. People say that if the drinking age is lowered then college students will abuse the privilege. They say they will drink irresponsibly and act reckless. Another concern is that it will lead to more excess drinking because it will be so accessible for students. On the contrary, when drinking is legal people are much more likely to drink responsibly and not binge drink because when something such as drinking is legal, students don’t feel the need to force all of the drinks down at once in order to stay drunk for a longer period of time. The atmosphere in which people drink illegally is not a good situation for safe drinking. Underage drinking is usually done in frat basements, unsupervised house parties, and cars. When alcohol is consumed in these unsafe places it is unregulated and more likely for a terrible drinking incident to occur. The risk of binge drinking and ultimately death is a key reason why the drinking age should be lowered!
When drinking is legal, it is done out in the open and can be surveyed by the police. However, when the drinking age was raised it simply moved drinking underground. If the drinking age is lowered to 18, colleges could then regulate alcohol use, rather than college students drinking in an underground environment such as basements, fraternity houses and cars. Students are much less likely to become over-intoxicated if drinking is well regulated. Lowering the drinking age would then cut down alcohol-related deaths on campuses, because officials would be able to better monitor alcohol use. Many college administrators each year are forced to deal with student alcohol recklessness. An article by Dr. Cheryl Presley titled “College Factors That Influence Drinking” states that, “Last year 44% of college students reported to be binge drinkers (binging defined as 5 straight drinks for guys and 4 for girls.)” When almost half of the students on a given campus are binge drinking on a regular basis, it is not a matter if there will be a death, it is when!
The biggest concern that critics have to lowering the age is the thought that it will lead to an increased rate of drunken driving accidents. In the article “College Factors that Influence Drinking” Williams states that “From 1970-1976 30 states lowered their Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) from 21 to 18, 19, or 20” but “In 1984 in response to the nation’s mood against drunk driving, the U.S. decided to enable an act that says to cut off state highway funding for states who kept their drinking age at lower than 21.” The law resulted in every state raising the age back up to 21. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the increase of the drinking age reduced drinking among high school seniors by 13.3%.” (“Collegefactors…”) This has lowered the incidence of high school drinking because the 18 year olds still in high school would no longer be able to purchase or consume alcohol. “By raising the age it reduced alcohol-related deaths among 15-20 year olds since 1984.” (“Collegefactors…”) All of these stats and opinions are misleading because drinking and driving was already declining before they raised the drinking age back up to 21. Also the lowered drinking age was not in place for a long enough period of time for the young drinkers to get used to their new right and become more responsible drinkers. The current drinking law is unenforceable. Campus officials suggest bowing to reality and to lower the drinking age. Colleges have come to accept the fact that students, no matter what age, will drink. Colleges are ineffective in enforcing the law and countless amounts of underage college kids drink on a regular bases. The college committees have started to focus their energy on encouraging college students to drink safely. On the website done by the “Amethyst Initiative” titled “AmethystInitiative.org” it claims “National alcohol prohibition from 1920 to 1933 failed, which shows that strict regulation of drinking is counterproductive, unenforceable, and can lead to an increase in illegal and underground activities.” To this day, drinking is still unenforceable and leads to an increase of illegal activities. It is illegal for a person to drink, but if he or she really wants to they can get alcohol without much trouble but now it is done in an illegal way. Either businesses will fail to ask for I.D., or an older friend makes the purchase. Another big problem is the large production all over the country of fake I.D.’s. The production of fake I.D.’s has become a huge underground market targeting college kids and high school kids all over. Lowering the drinking age creates less underground crime! People who are opposed to changing this law claim that high school teen drinking is already a bad enough problem as it is with the drinking age being 21. It is said that if you allow 18 year olds who are still in high school to legally purchase alcohol it would open up unlimited opportunities for teens of all ages to access alcohol. Everyone in high school would have countless people that they could depend on to buy alcohol for them. Also, if it became legally acceptable for people 3 years younger to drink, then what is to say that it would not lower the age of when teens think it will be socially acceptable for them to drink? However, alcohol is already accessible by any teen who truly wants to get their hands on it. An article by Janet Williams, titled “Adults Most Common Source for Teens,” states that, “Two out of three teens, aged 13-18, said it is easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it.” As well as “One third responded that it is easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly.” In addition to parents providing their children with alcohol, many teens will access alcohol with fake I.D.’s or simply a business that fails to check I.D. at all. When kids are capable of getting alcohol they will also provide for their friends and those friends will do the same to their friends. Lowering the drinking age will not make high school drinking worse because there are already unlimited opportunities for high school teens to access alcohol.
In conclusion, a more compelling argument can be made in support of lowering the drinking age. People drink and act more responsibly when it is done in a legal environment. Also 18 year olds bear the responsibilities and privileges of adulthood and should be trusted to make mature decision involving alcohol.
Keen, Judy. “States weigh lowering drinking age.”
USA Today 1 Apr. 2008: Web. 7 Nov. 2011
"It’s Time to Rethink the Drinking Age." Amethyst Initiative » Welcome to the Amethyst Initiative. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. <http://amethystinitiative.org>.
"College Factors That Influence Drinking." Research about Alcohol and College Drinking Prevention. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. <http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/supportingresearch/journal/presley.aspx>.
Bush, Bill. “College Presidents back drinking-age debate.”
The Columbus Dispatch 20 Aug. 2008: Web. 8 Nov. 2011.
"College Presidents Seek to Re-examine Drinking Age | Cleveland.com." Blogs - Cleveland.com. Web. 06 Dec. 2011. Belluck, Pam. “Vermont Considers Lowering Drinking Age to 18.”
New York Times 13 Apr. 2005: Web. 9 Nov. 2011
“On the issue of underage drinking, everyone has the same interest at heart: protecting young people. As a devout Mormon, I have never had a drop of alcohol in my life. Truthfully, I wish that no one ever drank. But I know that is not a reality. And, as a university president for 30 years, I also know that our current drinking laws do not necessarily reflect reality. Many underage young people drink alcohol, and they often do so in great excess.” (“Collegepresidents…”). Gee along with the hundreds of other presidents realize that the drinking laws are not only unreasonable but ineffective. Even though Dr. Gee believes that drinking is wrong and has chosen not to take part in at as long as he lives, he concludes that the majority of young peoplde in college rink and it only makes sense for it to be legal for those 18 years of age.