Scrolling along my Facebook news feed, I come across many calls to action. Among these calls are the petitions for lowering of the legal drinking age. This conversation is not new to our generation and is certainly a subject our country has long argued about.
Many who support the lowering of the legal drinking age use comparative arguments. These include the ability for teenagers to be legally prosecuted in the adult correctional system, the ability to die for our country in war and the ability to pay taxes. The argument made is that consuming alcohol should be available for 18-year-olds if the other conditions are true.
Regardless of opinion, why is the legal drinking age remaining at 21, especially with the decision relegated to individual states’ rights?
The answer lies in the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act of 1984. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, this Act allows states to set their legal drinking age below 21, but at a reduction of 10 percent in highway grant money. This may seem like a small percentage but when given the option, states choose full highway funding in exchange for a slightly higher drinking age.
This federal requirement leads to further questions surrounding the conclusiveness of a precise age. What factors contribute towards the age 21, and not higher or lower? Is there any difference between the legal drinking age being 18 or 21?
Again using the government source of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the main factor identified is abuse of alcohol. Those under the age of 21 are more likely to abuse alcohol when they do partake in drinking it than someone of a higher age. Alcohol abuse before 21 can lead to problems in brain development and increases the chances of serious injury than those of age.
The counterargument here involves the reasoning that alcohol abuse below 21 is a result of the illegality of the behavior. That is to say, lowering the drinking age would result in less unmonitored drinking and safer alcohol usage amongst teenagers.
“I think it’s unnecessary for the drinking age to be 21. Just as it is ridiculous that you have to be 25 to rent a car. If you cannot hold your liquor at 26 then you should not drink. If you’re 18 and you can be responsible than you should be allowed to drink,” Carter Bell, FSC freshman, said.
In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, adolescent usage of alcohol was surveyed in European countries where the drinking age is as low as 14 and in the United States. The study found that “a majority of European countries have higher intoxication rates among young people than do youth from the United States.”
In fact, only 33 percent of 15-16 year olds in the U.S. reported drinking in a 30-day period, whereas countries such as Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom saw their percentage peak in the high 70s.
“I don’t think [the drink age] should be as low as 14, but it should be 18,” Bell said.
Overall, the legal drinking age of 21 in America is not a flawed ploy at sheltering adolescents. According to research, it’s one of the best ways to control the proper usage of alcohol.