Lower Drinking Age to 18

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1 March 2016

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According to the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, in 2010 underage drinkers from ages 15-20 were responsible for 48.8% of alcohol purchases. The minimum legal drinking age(MLDA) in the United States was 18 years old until 1984, when all fifty states raised their legal drinking age to 21 or older. The drinking age should be lowered from 21 years old to 18 years old because at that age one legally becomes an adult, it would reduce the amount of unsafe drinking activity, and there are fewer drunk driving car accidents in many other countries with a drinking age of 18. In the United States at the age of eighteen you receive the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. As an adult you should be able to make your own decisions on drinking alcohol.

You can vote, smoke cigarettes, serve on juries, get married, sign contracts, be prosecuted as adults, and join the military. It is known that alcohol consumption can interfere with development of the young adult brain’s frontal lobes. The frontal lobes are essential for functions such as emotional regulation, planning, and organization. However, the decisions you can make as an adult include risking one’s life. Among these decisions should be alcohol consumption because as an adult you have the right to participate in actions that affect your health. Former Middlebury College president John McCardell wrote a New York Times op-ed that called the current drinking age “bad social policy and a terrible law.” It is a bad social policy because college is where you start making new relationships that could potentially last your entire life and to create such bonds it would be nice to just be able to talk over some beers. Allowing eighteen year olds to legally drink in regulated environments would decrease the amount of unsafe drinking activity. Bars and clubs are potentially unsafe environments, but they are supervised by employees. Prohibiting 18-20 year olds from drinking in such places causes them to choose to drink in unsupervised places such as house parties or fraternity parties. The rate of underage drinking arrests would go down if drinking were legal making crime rates decrease as well.

According to Boston University, “Allowing alcohol consumption legally might help cut down alcohol related deaths in colleges.” College students over drink and tend to have accidents because they are unsure when they will be able to have alcohol again. In 2006 according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 76.6% of twelfth graders admitted to drinking at some point in their lives. Lowering the drinking age would diminish the thrill of breaking the law. There would no longer be the exciting aspect of being rebellious. The United States increased the drinking to 21 in 1984, but its rate of traffic accidents and fatalities in the 1980s decreased less than that of European countries whose legal drinking ages are lower than 21. In the United Kingdom, only 15.88% of car accidents are related to drunk driving. In stating this, you can’t really say that having a drinking age of 18 reduces the amount of drunk driving accidents. Plus, deaths from drunk driving as a percentage of total driving fatalities have gradually decreased since 1982, two years before MLDA 21 went into effect. Since this decline came across all age groups, it cannot be because of the introduction of MLDA 21. In a 2002 meta-study of the legal drinking age and health and social problems, 72% of the studies found no statistics that related to an increase in suicide and criminal activities by adolescents if the drinking age were to be lowered to eighteen.

Raising the drinking age has been ineffective thus far. If the drinking age were to be lowered to eighteen it would have more benefits than consequences. Underage drinking enforcement is not even a priority for many law enforcement agencies. An estimated two of every 1,000 occasions of illegal drinking by youth under 21 results in an arrest. By raising the drinking age and making consumption only available for older people our laws have made drinking even more attractive. And drinking in excess has become a standard way of rebelling against what is seen as an unjust and immoral law.

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StudyScroll. (2016). Lower Drinking Age to 18. [Online]. Available at: https://studyscroll.com/lower-drinking-age-to-18-essay [Accessed: 5-Dec-2023]

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