Why We Should Lower the Drinking Age


Erika Ackley, Managing Editor

When you turn 18 you can vote, get married, pay taxes and even become a legal guardian. But drinking alcohol? That’s still a big, fat, no. Imagine being able to drink at the dinner table when you’re 15, or being able to legally purchase alcohol at 18. Well, that dream is stuck beneath the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which President Reagan wrote into law in 1984, raising the drinking age from 18 to 21.

Currently, according to Huffington Post, those who are younger than 21 make up 17.5% of consumer spending (clearly illegal) of alcohol nationwide, and 90% of that is consumed through binge drinking. Clearly, the 21-and-over rule isn’t working and is only teaching young people how to drink as much as they can as fast as they can to avoid getting caught. It’s time to lower the drinking age to 18 and to change the culture around alcohol to make it less taboo.

With a lower drinking age and change in attitudes about banning alcohol, exposure to it would be done in the family, a safe and controlled environment, reducing both the stigma of drinking and the many risks and deaths associated with binge drinking. Making a glass of wine or beer a regular part of dinner limits the eagerness and rebellion associated with underaged drinking. When there is no longer a law for youths to break, they’ll be less inclined to consume alcohol.

The college drinking scene is driven by defiance against both parents and the law as students are introduced to new environments, such as no longer living at home. The NCADD states that four out of five college students regularly drink, and half of the college students who drink also binge drink.

Overconsumption and recklessness leads to life-threatening situations. This can be avoided with earlier exposure to alcohol, preventing young adults from getting caught up in the drinking scenes at college campuses. “Lowering the drinking age will help slow the need for pre gaming and bring the college fake ID business to a dead stop,” said U.S. News. “It can’t help but reduce the binge drinking, drug overdoses and sexual assaults.”

Critics would argue that a lower drinking age creates easier access to alcohol, resulting in more underage drinking with an even younger crowd, leaving the U.S. with the same problem in their hands.

However, according to the Huffington Post, Europe’s drinking model is a prime example of success with a lower drinking age.  They’ve been exposed to alcohol their entire lives and have a level of respect and control for alcohol that seems impossible to achieve here in the United States.

When alcohol is integrated into a lifestyle early on, it’s seen more as a norm rather than something dangerous, very illegal and attractive to younger adults. Teens whose parents have incorporated alcohol into casual dinners at home have become more educated about drinking, preparing them for future situations.  

Dwight B. Heath, a Brown University Professor, believes that the age to introduce alcohol should be dropped to as low as six to eight years to ensure maximum tolerance of alcohol in the lifestyles of young adults. They have experienced the effects of alcohol in moderation beforehand and contain the knowledge of proper use and consumption, leading to overall safer drinking environments.

Since the drinking age was raised in the mid 1980’s, it has done nothing but drive underaged drinking farther away from the law into unsupervised scenes that have more risks and cause more deaths.

“By lowering the age police would avoid excessive ticketing of minors,” says Beckner, a Colorado Police Chief, regarding underage drinking. “We would surround the house with officers and we would write every single underage person coming out of that house a ticket… All we did is we pushed it further underground.” A lower drinking age would allow them to focus on more serious alcohol related actions such as driving under the influence and alcohol abuse.

MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving, stated that when the United States reduced their drinking age in the seventies, alcohol related casualty rates increased from 10 to 40 percent. They claim that the solution to underaged drinking lies in education; classes in which there would be tests on substances and alcohol abuse, and possibly even licenses as a way to fully eliminate underaged drinking. The solution does lie within education, but one that is hands-on based with alcohol, so that tolerance and proper experience is established.  

Looking at Europe again, youths have experienced moderate drinking through parental guidance at a young age. This has proved to educate children about how alcohol affects the body and has introduced alcohol as a normal drink, compared to something extremely dangerous and illegal. With this in mind, the United States can notably reduce their underage drinking problems and the fatalities that result from alcohol by lowering the drinking age, adding it to the many rights that come when one turns 18.