Roger and his dad are having dinner at a restaurant. Roger has had a long day at school, so his dad decides to give him a few sips of his beer, to relieve some of his stress. A little while later, the police show up and arrest the two for violating underage drinking laws. Roger is charged with a class C misdemeanor and receives a fine of $500. His father is fined $4,000 and loses his driver’s license for 180 days. A pretty big price to pay for a few sips of beer. Is it really worth it? Every day hundreds of young adults are charged with underage drinking violations, but are they really to blame? Could this whole underage drinking crisis be the effect of the law itself? Having 21 as the legal drinking age is not as beneficial as it’s cracked up to be. The drinking age should be lowered to 18.
When teens drink underage, it has a negative impact on their lives and schoolwork. Since 1984, the year that the drinking age was changed, the number of teens caught drinking underage has increased drastically. The people at The Pacific Institute of Research and Evaluation agree. They predict that the amount of teenage drinking increased by almost 50% from 1984 to 2008. The education of teen drinkers is affected too. One school principal noted, “Some students come into school drunk or with hangovers. It has quite a devastating effect. They come into school with a hangover, they’ve got a headache, they want sleep, and they can’t concentrate…. It sometimes leads to behavior that has a horrible effect on the rest of the group and their learning is affected” (Connolly). If the peers of those who drink underage are affected, we have more reason to lower the drinking age. Teenagers like to feel rebellious, and breaking the law is one way they do this. If the age to legally drink were lower, there would less of a desire to break that law.
In other countries where the drinking age is lower, fewer teens drink excessively. The United States has one of the highest drinking ages in the world. In 2006, a Newsweek poll asked teens from different countries, “Have you been drunk at least 20 times?” Only 2% of teens from Italy answered “yes”. Only 4% of teens from France and Portugal answered “yes” as well. Other European countries such as Ireland, Finland, the U.K, and Denmark had higher percentages, but the percent of teens that answered “yes” from each country stayed under 50%. The teens from the United States however, answered over 50% “yes”. How is it possible that the country with the highest drinking age law can also have the highest number of teens getting drunk? Maybe it’s the lack of trust shown to the teenagers by the adults. One teenager from Italy said, “My parents are nice. They let me do a lot of very grown up things. I don’t drink, even though I am legal, but my parents trust that I am grown up enough to handle responsibility” (Gene).
Being considered an adult at 18 should also include the right to drink responsibly. At 18 you take care of yourself, and you deal with your own problems. So if an 18 year old can buy cigarettes legally and destroy their lungs, why can’t they have a beer? Out of all of the things adults can do, drinking is one of the least dangerous. Amber was a sophomore at the University of Florida. She made good grades and cared about her education. One night she was hanging out with her friends. They were passing around a flask of whiskey and just having a good time. Suddenly the police arrived, and her friends scattered, leaving Amber to take the blame. Amber was arrested and sentenced to a month in jail. When she got out, she was expelled from school, leaving her without a degree. She fell into deep depression and even became suicidal (“Underage Drinking: You Can’t Afford the Buzz”). A successful life, suddenly destroyed by a few sips of whiskey.
There are far more dangerous things that 18 year olds can take part in legally. One of these is buying and owning a weapon. People are far too paranoid about what would happen if you are drunk with a weapon. If they’re so worried, take the gun out of the picture, not the drink. Also, you can be drafted into the army when you 18. If you can be forced to defend our country with your life, then don’t you deserve a beer? Finally, you make your own choices medically. If you got in a car crash that destroyed your face, you have the right to decide if you want reconstruction surgery or not. The police shouldn’t be involved in problems you cause. If we can fix the destruction we cause to our faces, what makes society think we can’t mend the destruction we cause in an accident? Teenagers are more than capable of taking responsibility for their actions, and shouldn’t have to deal with the police if they are righting the wrongs they made.
With evidence like this, lowering the drinking age to 18 could be far more beneficial than leaving it at 21. Responsibility is a key factor in a successful generation of teenagers. Adults allow teens to make choices for themselves, whether or not they are good. But the responsibility of drinking at a younger age has yet to be embraced by the U.S. If the government allows teens to drink at 18, they won’t have such a strong temptation to break the drinking law. This could serve as a global example that trust is the most effective way to keep kids on the right track. There is nothing wrong with a glass of wine or beer every now and then, as long as it is being handled responsibly. Teenagers make mistakes; we all do. And we deal with the consequences of our actions. But when we face the constant everyday struggles of poverty, war, and hardship, shouldn’t we be entitled to a beer?