Lowering the Drinking Age

In the United States, it is illegal to consume alcohol until the age of twenty-one. At the age of 18 people are considered adults. “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen-years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age (Amendment 26, Section 1 of the Constitution). At the age of eighteen, a person can get married, vote, drive, take out loans, pay taxes, buy tobacco, have sex, be tried as an adult, have children, use credit cards, buy real estate, act independently of parents and be in the armed forces and die for their country.

If we look at Vietnam War, half of the soldiers that fought in that war were under the age of twenty-one, and a lot of them were 17 to 19 years old. Yet that person still can not drink alcohol. Also we can smoke when we are eighteen. Smoking kills just as many people if not more than drinking. Smoking causes cancer, and many more conditions compared to drinking that causes liver problems only after sever abuse of it. Smoking has many chemicals including carbon monoxide which is so poisonous that we have alarms in our house that detect it, but we can smoke and not drink. We can vote when we are eighteen.

We vote for bills and bonds that change our lives. We can vote for the senators and the entire Congress that propose laws that govern our society. We vote for the President who is the commander of millions of troops whom he can send to their deaths in a minute’s warning. It is imperative that the drinking age be lowered to the age of eighteen. The drinking age must be lowered to the age of eighteen because this age would be consistent with other responsibilities that the government ____ grants eighteen-year-olds. For instance, at the age of eighteen, a person is liable to be in the armed forces.

If a person is being trusted to fight or even possibly die for their country, it seems a lot less crucial to trust them with an alcoholic beverage. To add to the fact of dying for their country, these people are being counted on to kill other humans. This seems unreasonable that a person is liable to take on an adult’s job, that involves the future of the country, and still be unable to enjoy an activity that other adults are allowed to participate in. For instance, when a person reaches the age of eighteen he or she can leave their parents’ home or be kicked out, and become their own legal guardian.

They no longer are required to have their parents sign their name to any documents pertaining to them, and are now considered an adult except when it comes to the consumption of alcoholic beverages. When a person eighteen or older commits a crime they will be tried as an adult. Once a person turns eighteen, they no longer go to kindergarten prison (Juvenile Hall) when they are convicted of a crime, but instead they go to jail, state prison, federal prison, or death row depending on the severity. They are now held fully responsible for their own actions, and must accept the consequences.

I think that we should change the law and make it so a person can’t be tried as an adult until they turn twenty-one. Maybe between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one people aren’t responsible for their actions, after all, they are still considered a minor at the bars (at least in America). On one’s 18th birthday the law no longer views him as a child yet he is restricted from many places of social activity. Bars and many dance clubs are strictly for those 21 and over due to the legal drinking age in America, so many legal adults are not permitted entry.

Clearly a discrepancy exists between an 18 year old adult and a 21 year old adult; however, since they are viewed by law as equals shouldn’t they have the same privileges (Daniel 140)? Obviously certain laws that regulate activities by age are necessary. Voting, alcohol, and driving should not be available to people of any age because of the amount of responsibility these activities require. However the segregation between younger and older adults is unwarranted. Up until 1984 the legal drinking age was 18, however Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) spurred a campaign to raise the age limit to 21.

They succeeded with the passage of the National Minimum Purchase Age Act in 1984. The law aimed to lower the number of drunk driving accidents, which it has done, but only by a small margin. However, what it has also done is reduce the rights of citizens between the ages of 18 and 21. Americans hold personal freedom to be an undeniable right. The right to drink one’s self into a drunken state still falls under the personal right category; however, this basic freedom is restricted by the implementation of the 1984 law.

Instead of being able to have complete control over one’s life when they reach the legal age of adulthood, citizens are forced to wait an additional three years for an equal level of freedom. A need for drinking regulation definitely exists, yet it needs to coincide with other laws defining adult privileges (Edwards et al. 138). All rights would be gained simultaneously and lowering the legal drinking age to 18 would erase the discrepancy that now exists. Furthermore the temptation to undermine the law through underage drinking would be greatly decreased.

For many college students that fall in between years of legal adulthood and legal drinking age, the desire to drink is spurred by getting away with something they are not supposed to be doing. Alcohol becomes an “forbidden fruit”. Drinking is more exciting when it is illegal (RALLY 1). According to “Dan,” an English exchange student, the typical college student would not feel the need to have a binge drinking party if he were allowed into the local bar. The need to throw private drinking parties would no longer be prevalent because the accessibility of alcohol would no longer be in question.

Lowering the legal drinking age would also create a plethora of social events for those 18 and older. Currently many dance clubs are strictly for those 21 and over because the establishment serves alcohol. This leaves the remainder of the adults populous to find their own forms of entertainment, counter productive or otherwise. If these bored adults were allowed to participate in more activities there would be less people idling on the streets. Society as a whole would be better off because there would be less illegal activity taking place.

This could entail underage drinking or more serious matters engaged by those with spare time and nowhere to go. If more young adults were drinking in public places as opposed to dorm rooms the possibility of excessive drinking would be lowered. The number of people present and the way in which bars and clubs are run provide the structured environment necessary to promote safer drinking. It is far less likely for someone to die of alcohol poisoning in a bar than in a private home because the number of people capable of recognizing alcohol-related problems greatly increases.

The adult population between the ages of 18 and 21 has been oppressed by the injustice of age based segregation for over a decade, and it is time for something to be done. The legal drinking age needs to be lowered to fit the remainder of the country’s standards of adulthood. Eighteen year olds have the maturity to look at alcohol as a social activity to interact with peers and adults and not as a way to alter their conscience. In addition, people fresh out of high school are bombarded by many financial institutions such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

These companies are offering them Visa and Master Cards with up to 25% annual percentage rates (APR). How is someone with no credit history and little or no income supposed to take such huge financial responsibilities? They are expected to be able to take on this burden, yet they still can not buy a six pack to get their mind off the fact that they are in serious debt with their new credit card. Most twenty-one year olds that own credit cards want to get drunk when they realize that they have such enormous financial burdens, when eighteen-year-olds don’t even have this option.

An eighteen-year-old can die for his country while leaving his family to pay the 25% APR accrued by his quickly accumulated short-lived large debt. Yet he still couldn’t drink. The drinking age must be lowered because in the majority of foreign countries, there is no distinction between a right and a wrong age to drink. For instance, Amsterdam has no drinking age, but there are barely any injuries that relate to alcohol by people under the age of 21. This is because all the young teenagers know that they can drink and this leaves nothing to rebel against, there is no hype. If something isn’t prohibited, it becomes something of less interest.

Professor Craig Reinerman of University California Santa Cruz has devoted his life to studying alcohol and drug policies in different countries. He has found that when no boundaries are placed on the use of alcohol, it becomes part of the normal way of life and there is no final destination to reach if there is no age limit. In addition, Mexico’s drinking age is lower than Americas, which increases the rate of accidents involving alcohol. The rate of alcohol related accidents would decrease if the age limit were the same as Mexico’s because there would be no need for teens to travel to Mexico to get drunk.

Each year many teens from America travel to Mexico to take advantage of the young drinking age. In the act of doing this, horrible things take place, especially rapes and kidnappings of young girls. Going to Mexico and drinking is much more dangerous for an eighteen year old, than drinking in America for numerous reasons. Most importantly though, Spanish is the main language that is spoken there and if a teen is drunk and crosses paths with a policeman, he will go to jail. This is a very scary thought to think, because it could separate and worry schoolmates of the whereabouts of their friend.

Changing the legal drinking age in America would solve all these problems, because the curiosity and hype would decrease dramatically. Life hits a peek of change at the age of eighteen. There are responsibilities flying from all directions. These responsibilities are all characteristics of adulthood, but alcohol is considered a mid-adulthood only characteristic. There are a lot of responsible 19-year-olds, and there are plenty of irresponsible 22-year-olds. In a land built on individual freedom, it is strange that we are sent out in the world as adults, yet denied the opportunity to make such a simple choice (Griffioen 2).

The focus must be on family. There need to be open lines of communication between parents and their children about drinking (Griffioen 1). The taxes on alcohol should be stipend to the point where it simply isn’t economical to get wasted. There need to be places where young adults can meet safely and be supervised. We need to get kids with kegs out of dirty basements and underage adults off tailgates in the middle of some farmer’s field with tall cans of Bud. Finally, the punishment for driving under the influence must be increased and always enforced. In Europe, drunken driving is simply not tolerated.

Too many lives are lost because of irresponsibility and a lenient justice system. In 1992 the average age of a person pulled over for driving under the influence was 39. 7 years old. Studies have shown that young people fear driving drunk more than adults. It is still a tragic problem, but the United States must acknowledge that enforcing responsibility is more effective than criminalizing something that kids do anyway (Griffioen 2). I agree that before any measures are taken to change the current alcohol-related policies regarding age and college campuses, more education and awareness is needed.

“Without addressing the problem and not ignoring it, their will always be abuse of alcohol (smith 2). Drunk driving is by far the most pervasive problem related to alcohol (CERYA 1). However, instead of dealing with the problem current laws simply circumvent it, and send the wrong message. Current drunken driving laws are a sham. Too often a defendant gets off with only nominal punishment or with no punishment at all. Losing the right to drive for six months is not enough a punishment, especially since many offenders continue to drive illegally. Drunk driving is too likely to kill another person, and needs to be treated with this in mind.

Instead of having laws that are tough on drinking and driving, we have laws that are tough on “under age” drinking. The problem of drinking and driving has been swept under the table; instead we are keeping a small portion of our adult population from being allowed to drink. By lowering the drinking age, and raising the minimum penalties for DWIs we would be taken a very mature step. We would admit that we have “solved” a problem only by glossing over it. We would finally make a step in the right direction of having a law that is actually aimed at the overall problem, not just what is politically expedient.

It a restriction of freedom to trust and expect so much out of a young adolescence and not let them participate in the activity of drinking. For the most part I think lowering the drinking age will have various benefits to this country, which will not only help us succeed economically but politically as well. Drinking is a part of our society. It has been since the beginning of civilization. Why deprive a section of our society from joining in? This makes no sense at all. More importantly why aren’t we protesting? Protesting worked before and it can work again. AIDS Weekly, p. 19, June 28, 1993 Lapey, Janet.

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