Why, if one is considered an adult at age eighteen in America, are they not allowed to purchase and legally consume alcohol? The minimum legal drinking age needs to be lowered, and not just for that reason. The amount of teenagers with drinking problems and alcoholism is far greater than in Europe, where drinking ages are far lower. Also, studies show that the current minimum age drinking laws have been ineffective to a high degree. By the time they are high school seniors, seventy-two percent teenagers say they have already consumed alcohol (Minton). Proper education at younger ages is needed for America’s youth to learn the proper use of alcohol through experimentation with their own limits in safe environments. Let not insanity cloud the eyes of an entire nation, for the tyranny of neo-prohibitionists must not last; for the safety of the youth and the protection of citizen’s rights.
When one turns eighteen years old, there is a general feeling of freedom. The freedom that comes with being a full legal citizen of the United States of America. New rights are granted to that person, among these new rights is the right to vote, to choose the people who will represent them in legislature. Turning eighteen grants many rights to the person, including the right to sign contracts, the right to sue and, therefore, be sued; the right to buy and sell a home; the right to open a checking account in one’s own name; the right to buy and use tobacco; the right to buy lottery tickets and to gamble in casinos; the right to buy a rifle or a shotgun; the right to move out of one’s parent’s house; and the right to be tried as an adult, which means no juvenile hall, and accepting full responsibility for one’s actions. If a person is responsible enough to be tried as an adult, then shouldn’t they at least be treated like one (Chafetz)? Also, when a man in the United States reaches eighteen years of age, he is required to register for the military draft, and many men go to their recruitment office the day they turn eighteen anyways to join the ranks of America’s bravest. It is absolute bullshit that in this great country, the very people that risk their lives to secure the freedom of the entire nation and protect the rights that every citizen holds dear; that these brave souls cannot even come back from killing the enemy that would take those freedoms away and smash them underfoot, they are not legally allowed to crack open some brews and share their stories (Chafetz). As well as having the right to vote and go to war, citizens age eighteen and older must serve on juries if called upon. If the amount of responsibility and level of maturity to decide the fate of a person, whether they are guilty or innocent, is met at age eighteen, then how mature must one be to be allowed to drink?
The law does not stop eighteen to twenty year olds from drinking. In fact, the law may increase the amount of eighteen to twenty year olds who do drink. It has been shown that, especially in college-age students, there is a tendency to not do what they are told, on the contrary, they will do the exact opposite. The problem with the drinking age being twenty-one is that some students drink purely out of defiance (Dailey). So actually, when the the United States Government raised the drinking age in 1983, they unknowingly increased alcohol’s allure to eighteen-to-twenty year olds. In addition to this, the United States Government has kept the minimum legal drinking age to twenty-one by threatening to cut ten percent of state highway funding if they lower the minimum age (Chafetz). The federal government defends MLDA 21 (minimum legal drinking age twenty-one) by citing the decrease in teenage single-vehicle and drunk driving fatalities, but this evidence is flawed. The number of fatalities is down in all age groups, not just teenagers, and cars driven now are much safer than the cars that were being driven in the early 1980’s, and teenagers are much safer drivers, which can be attributed to the decreased amount of fatalities. Also, in other countries that have lower drinking ages, the number of fatalities has fallen (Chafetz).
Studies show that in fact, underage drinkers are more likely to want to drink than drinkers that are of age. It is also shown that eighteen to twenty-one year olds do not follow the drinking law because it is seen as arbitrary. What used to be socially acceptable behaviour has been successfully driven to unsafe venues and quicker drinking, because of fear of getting caught (Hanson). Proper education on drinking alcohol could eliminate many problems with underage drinking. Education on proper use of alcohol is important, and because of the ridiculously high drinking age, people often do not know how to use alcohol in a way that is acceptable and enjoyable. Earlier education can solve many problems that this nation has with underage drinking. In Italy, which is a country that has no drinking age, alcohol is known to be consumed as part of a meal, and from a very young age people are educated at home on how drinking affects them personally. Here in America, however, teenagers are inexperienced and do not know how alcohol will affect them, so they will end up drinking too much and doing something stupid or drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning (Dailey). If the drinking age was eighteen, then education on proper use of alcohol can begin sooner, and people will be more aware of how the alcohol affects them and teenage alcohol related deaths will decrease (Minton). The introduction of a graduated drinking license, much like the drivers licenses that are used now, would be a perfect way to introduce young drinkers to alcohol safely and in a way that they could be shown how to be responsible with drinking. MLDA 21 has harmed, not helped with teenage drinking problems by increasing alcohol’s allure to younger people and by creating generally uneducated and inexperienced drinkers (Chafetz).
Overall, the minimum legal drinking age of twenty-one has been largely ineffective and unfair to eighteen-to-twenty year olds. The minimum drinking age needs to be lowered in order to create experienced and responsible drinkers for the future. The neo-prohibitionists have increased defiance in the American youth and made drinking into a monster that it obviously is not. The excuse that the federal government gives to young people, that they lack maturity and judgement, is condescending and ultimately creates a country where the youth does indeed lack maturity and judgement in regards to alcohol. If the United States does not lower the minimum drinking age, then the problems that this country has with alcohol will increase. Lowering the drinking age to eighteen will not fix all of the drinking problems, but it will allow for an earlier introduction of teenagers to alcohol where they are more responsible and experienced for the future.
Minton, Michelle. “The Legal Drinking Age Has Not Been Effective.” Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Lowered? Ed. Stefan Kiesbye. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Rpt. from “Lower the Drinking Age for Everyone.” National Review (20 Apr. 2011). Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.
Chafetz, Morris E. “The Legal Drinking Age Does Not Prevent Teens from Drinking.”Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Lowered? Ed. Stefan Kiesbye. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Rpt. from “The 21-Year-Old Drinking Age: I Voted for It; It Doesn’t Work.” Huffington Post. 2009. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.
Hanson, David J. “Education on Drinking Responsibly Must Replace Neo-Prohibitionism.” Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Lowered? Ed. Stefan Kiesbye. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Rpt. from “The Legal Drinking Age: Science vs. Ideology.” Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 7 Feb. 2013.
Dailey, Ruth Ann. “Lowering the Legal Drinking Age Will Reduce Alcohol’s Allure.”Should the Legal Drinking Age Be Lowered? Ed. Stefan Kiesbye. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. At Issue. Rpt.
from “Lower Legal Drinking Age to 18.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 22 Mar. 2007. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.