Drinking among the American youth in an inevitable reality. Alcohol consumption should not be prohibited but rather youth should be educated and encouraged to drink less because restricting drinking among youth under 21 is unrealistic. There are only four countries in the world with a drinking age of 21, the United States being one of them(Komro & Toomey, 2002). All others have drinking ages of 18 years, younger or sometimes no restriction at all. When compared against one another, the United States still experiences just as many if not more accidents due to underage drinking than other nations. If a higher drinking age is supposed to keep the youth of America safer, then why have they become more at risk for alcohol abuse and death due to alcohol-related causes than other nations? The fact is that a higher drinking age of 21 years old does not make alcohol safer and that lowering the drinking age in the United Stated to 18 years of age would, in fact, make alcohol consumption safer for young people.
The United States has the highest and most rigorously enforced drinking age in the world. Millions of dollars are spent annually in police force units, education, license permits and campaigns attempting to restrain youth under 21 from consuming alcohol(Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, 2003). But the fact remains that at least fifty percent of all high school senior admit to having consumed alcohol in the past 30 days(Austin, 2007). These types of drinking habits are not surprising–they have remained so for several decades and because alcohol is a part of the American culture and the majority of parents and adults partake of alcohol freely, it should come as no surprise that youth also follow that behavior and drink as well. It is unrealistic to keep youth from drinking alcohol when they will do so on their own. So much effort is spent on keeping the youth from drinking alcohol that the law has become counterproductive, overlooking the real need to teach teens how to consume responsibly and giving them ample time under supervision to do so. By the time they reach the age of 21, most young adults are enrolled as students in college and many live away from their parents homes. This leaves them no supervision to their drinking habits, and no responsibility to report to. If drinking was allowed while teens still lived under parental supervision, excessive drinking abuse could be monitored and dealt with by parents, relieving the government from costly regulations.
Many also argue that people who aren’t 21 years of age are not mature or responsible enough to consume alcohol. This argument is faulty due to the vast number of legal activities permitted to adults 18 years of age and older. Upon reaching the age of 18, an American adult is deemed responsible enough to vote, hold public office, serve on juries, serve in the military, fly airplanes, sign contracts for themselves and act as an adult in all other matters of daily life(Komro & Toomey, 2002). Stating that a person who can legally vote and can be held responsible for military service but not responsible enough to consume alcohol is unfounded.
These same people argue that only at 21 years of age is one’s body developed enough to take alcohol without damages to health(Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, 2003). However they fail to mention that all persons develop at different rates and under no circumstance does a person’s body “suddenly” become alcohol-ready exactly on their 21st birthday. The argument is as silly as assuming that all people reach puberty at exactly the same moment in their lives.
Alcohol can be a very dangerous and addictive substance but these dangers do not go away on someone’s 21st birthday. They are present whenever one partakes of alcohol whether they are 13 years old or 39 years old. The dangers and addictive properties of alcohol are always present and simply keeping youth from consuming it until a later age does not make it any safer or any less addictive or dangerous. Youth need to be educated as to the real dangers of alcohol and need to be supervised by parents and community while in their early experiences with the substance. It is not enough to restrict a person from alcohol consumption–people must be taught how to deal with the consequences of their drinking and how to drink responsibly. Lowering the drinking age of 21 to 18 years old allows for young adults to experiment with alcohol while still under the supervision of their parents and while still at a young enough age to be able to deal with the responsibilities with the support of their childhood community and friends.
The current policy toward alcohol and youth is unfounded and extremely unfair for young adults. They are left in a limbo where they must be held responsible for certain aspects of community life but can not fully partake in adulthood. The American culture is steeped in alcohol and its presence is apparent in many arenas, sporting events, parties, and other social gatherings. But America is not alone–many countries around the world are connected to alcohol and many nations consume more alcohol per person than Americans. Yet it is only in America that there are so many accidents, reports of abuse, and death connected to alcohol. And it is only in America that a drinking age of 21 is so strictly adhered to with such tough regulations and punishments for those that break the laws. People need to be made aware of the superfluousness of American policies of alcohol and drinking age and make better decisions toward turning this around and lowering the drinking age to 18.
Austin, James. Underage Drinking (Issues That Concern You). Farmington Hills, MI: Green-haven Press, 2007.
Hanson, David J.. “Underage Drinking & Alcohol Abuse .” WWW2 Webserver. 29 June 2008.
Komro, Kelli A., and Traci L. Toomey. Strategies to prevent underage drinking.: An article from: Alcohol Research & Health. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002.
“Underage Drinking-Why Do Adolescents Drink, What Are the Risks, and How Can Underage Drinking Be Prevented?.” NIAAA Publications. 1 Jan. 2006. 29 June 2008.
Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2003.
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