18-year-olds Can Drink Responsibly
21 years old is the only accepted age in the United States for a citizen to drink legally, yet religious organizations, adult supervised social gatherings, and a significantly large number of other countries do not limit the age of the consumption of alcohol. With the same responsibilities of other adults in almost all aspects of life, 18-year-olds United States citizens are expected to support themselves (and sometimes even others) as contributing members of society. Among other things, they are required by law to sign up for the military draft to serve their country, live alone, and vote in elections, yet, they are forbidden by the federal government to legally consume alcoholic beverages until they are 21 years of age. The legal drinking age should be changed from 21 to 18 to decrease the thrill of 18 year-olds breaking the law, possibly harming themselves and others from not seeking needed medical attention, and end this double-sided law of the United States. The United States’ Uniform Drinking Act, which (according to public record) “compelled states to set the legal drinking age at 21 by withholding ten percent of highway funding from states that kept the minimum legal drinking age at 18,” is an example of the federal government overpowering state governments’ responsibilities. Many states had agreed to raise their age from 18 to 21 due to the federal government’s threats to deny them money for their annual highway funds. Should a person who can legally vote in the United States’ democratic process and has the possibility of death or severe injury while defending his or her nation in international affairs be denied the right to purchase a drink while at dinner? The Federal Government is simply creating an ultimatum for the state governments: either the states comply with the federally-set rule of having a 21-years-old drinking limit, or they are cheated out of their equally-deserved highway funding. Without this bribe of highway money, it is difficult to determine whether or not all individual states would comply with these unfair states’ rights boundaries.
18 year olds are legally eligible and encouraged to endanger themselves to serve in the US army, vote in government elections, and go to prison as an adult, yet are forbidden to consume alcohol. Alcohol consumption is a common social activity for adults to partake in, and being eligible to vote is very much the demonstration of independence. Finally, being tried as an adult expresses the maturity of these 18 year olds, governmentally proving these young people can handle themselves. If they have mostly adult responsibilities, one is able to reasonably challenge that they should be allowed to partake in other adult leisure activities as well. According to the Ohio State Bar Association, a child is defined as a person under the age of 18, not of the age of 18. When trying a young person in court, “Some of the factors the court considers are age, physical and mental maturity…and public safety.” As clearly expressed, an 18 year old is physically, mentally, old enough, and deserving of being punished for wrongdoings as an adult. For these same reasons, they should be permitted to consume alcohol. Much like an overbearing parent expects a considerable amount of well-behaved children without any incentive, the government also expects much of these “children”, these 18-year olds, without giving them the rights they deserve in exchange for their responsibilities.
Regardless of the law, by nature, teenagers attempt to push the limits set by authoritative figures, in this case rebelling against rules set for them by government; by lowering the drinking age, the thrill of breaking the law would be taken away. According to Leslie Stahl, a correspondent for CBS News reporting on the issue of lowering the drinking age, “High non-compliance with [the minimum legal drinking age] 21 promotes general disrespect and non-compliance with other areas of US law.” Also, readily available to people below 21 are cigarettes, an addictive and much more dangerous substance than alcohol. A direct source of lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervix cancers, and also a leading factor in Cardiovascular diseases such as Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, Cerebrovascular Disease, Coronary Heart Disease, Reproductive effects such as reduced female fertility, preterm delivery, low birth weight, and fetal death, Cancers of the bladder, cervix, esophagus, kidney, lungs, and mouth, and can also cause coughing, wheezing, lung function decline, and susceptibility to acute respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, cigarettes can be legally purchased by an 18-year old, yet alcoholic beverages cannot. With over 4,000 chemicals in any small, addictive pack, cigarettes are more harmful to the human body than the legal consumption amount of alcohol, often inhaled and abused by people to “be social” around their peers, since they are forbidden to consume alcohol. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of 2,468,435 deaths in America per year, 25,692 are caused by alcohol (mostly overconsumption or lack of seeking medical attention.) Cigarettes, from their various diseases, are the cause of about 443,000 deaths in the US per year.
Lowering the drinking age would decrease dangerous drinking activities due to unsupervised drinking on private property. According to ProCon, a nonprofit, nonpartisan charity designed to give both sides of a controversial topic in order to establish a more well-informed public, “Proponents of lowering the minimum legal drinking age from 21 argue that it has not stopped teen drinking, and has instead pushed underage binge drinking into private and less controlled environments, leading to more health and life-endangering behavior by teens.” Since 18-20 year old people are not allowed to drink in bars, they do it in private. Since they are drinking inside unsupervised, private homes, there is less supervision and they are more prone to getting overly intoxicated and harming themselves or others. Therefore, lowering the drinking age restriction to 18 would also reduce the number of underage people who are afraid to seek medical attention when they are harmed due to alcohol intake. Many of these people do not go to hospitals when they are in dire need of medical attention because they are afraid of the legal consequences underage drinking entails. This medical attention issue is not solely about the fear of confronting authoritative figures after doing something illegal (underage drinking,) but is also one of other serious liability. Because they are unsupervised, if everyone attending the private party is intoxicated, who is expected to forbid these young adults from getting on the road and, unintentionally, harming themselves or others? No one is able to call a taxi, whereas if they were in a public setting with supervision, there would be more than enough people responsible for the safety of the people in the establishment. Also according to ProCon, “underage drinking is allowed in 29 states if done on private premises with parental consent, 25 states if for religious purposes, and 11 states if for educational purposes”. The organization also states that worldwide, (out of 138 countries,) 85 countries’ legal drinking age is 18-19, while only 6 have drinking ages of 21. 39 countries either don’t have a limit, or that limit is 17 or below. According to these statistics, the United States government seems to be very contradictory in their limitation of alcoholic consumption.
In conclusion, adults of age 18 should be permitted to consume alcohol due to the overwhelming evidence based upon age and physical and mental maturity. The drinking age should be lowered because young people are actually being unfairly cheated out of their rights simply because of their age, although they are expected to carry themselves as an adult. In “Support our Troops, Lower the Drinking Age,” The National Youth Rights Association states that ageism occurs when young people “put their lives on the line for the defense of freedom [but] many of America’s soldiers lack the very freedom they risk their lives for and remain second class citizens. Anti-youth politicians disrespect individuals under 21 by calling them immature children, incapable of being trusted with the right to drink legally. These young people under 21 are not immature children; they are proud American soldiers.” In addition to this argument, the drinking age should be lowered because it would aid young people in having to courage to logically seek medical attention when an alcohol-related injury occurs. These people would not fear being chastised for partaking in the illegal activity of drinking, and would lead to a significant decrease in alcohol-related deaths. Finally, the drinking age should be lowered because the law contradicts itself, stating that young people are allowed to drink in certain places, under certain condition, and if/where certain people are present. 18-year-old American citizens should be equally and legally permitted to drink by themselves, in public, in their home country.