It seems that every year as a new group of young men and women reach the legal age of 18, at which they can now be in the military, sign legal documents, buy tobacco and even be charged as an adult if they commit a crime, these individuals usually wonder why they can do all of that, but not legally drink alcohol in America.
According to Dr. David J. Hansen, a professor at SUNY-Potsdam who provides information on alcohol and drinking statistics and facts for educational purposes, out of 138 countries around the world, America is only 1 of 12 that has the legal drinking age above 18 and only 1 of 6 that has the highest legal drinking age of 21.
Many people argue that drinking at a younger age can arrest development and stunt growth, but postdam.edu dispels this as a myth. Other people also claim that if we let people drink younger they will be more likely to become alcoholics and abuse alcohol, but again this is not based in factual information according to Hansen. Alcoholism is a disease, but drinking from a younger age does not make one more predisposed to it, nor does it mean that they will want to abuse alcohol throughout life.
Another major argument that people have is that lowering the drinking age will increase the number of drunk driving incidents. Unless the age is changed in the U.S. this cannot be tested for sure and there is only speculation. But since drunk driving is currently the most common within the first four years of legal drinking, 21-25 years of age according to the Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, it seems rational that if the legal age were lowered it would just be readjusted to fit the new first four years of legal drinking.
Prohibition proved that not letting people drink only increases the number of people partaking in drinking activities. Many young people enjoy the thrill of illegally drinking underage and would most likely not be as inclined to drink as often if it were legal.
I have been able to experience this firsthand since it is not illegal to provide your child alcohol if it is for religious reasons in Florida. Since I was “of age” and considered a “woman” in my own religion of Judaism since I had Bat Mitzvah at 13, I could drink every Friday night if I wanted to for the Sabbath, but I never did. Knowing that I could drink made it less appealing. Having the ability to legally drink for eight years before the U.S. norm only made me less likely to drink at all because it was not something “special” anymore.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that “in 2012, about 9.3 million people ages 12–20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.” This number only included those who drank within a month of the survey, not those who drank at all in their underage lives, otherwise it would be a lot higher.
“I think the U.S. drinking age being 21 is not too outrageous, but since most people start drinking at 18 anyway, lowering it to meet that age would not be a bad idea,” Amanda Starcher, FSC junior, said.
There is not a significant reason to have the drinking age be 21 over 18. There is not enough research on how it affects development to claim 21 is a better age to start drinking than 18. Drunk driving will always be a problem for those who are irresponsible, but giving younger people a chance to drink may even allow them to become more responsible individuals who will understand the risks drinking can entail if not handled well. If we lower the age to 18 the group of 12-20 year-old drinkers may lower since it will not be “cool” to drink anymore if it is legal to part of that population. The U.S. needs to get with the rest of the world and lower the drinking age already.