The drinking age in the United States is a contradiction. At the age of eighteen, one can drive a car, vote in an election, get married, serve in the military and buy tobacco products. In the United States you are legally an adult at eighteen. An eighteen-year-old, however, can not purchase alcoholic beverages. The minimum drinking age should be lowered from twenty-one in the United States.
Unbelievably, the United States citizens trust their sixteen-year-old children to drive three thousand pound vehicles. We require our working young to pay taxes. We trust the decision-making abilities of eighteen year olds in public elections, with the right to smoke, and with the choice of marriage without parental consent. Our young adults are encouraged to join the army and fight for their country. We however believe that until the age of twenty-one our young adults can not handle alcohol.
There is an ever-growing problem on campuses all across the nation: the abuse of alcohol. College freshman, usually nineteen, enter college with a bias involving the drinking law. In almost every aspect other than the drinking age, these freshmen are considered adults. However, they are told by the law they are not responsible enough to handle alcohol.
Elizabeth Whelan declares, “Banning drinking by young people makes it a badge of adulthood — a tantalizing forbidden fruit” (84). This badge of adulthood is quickly attained by college freshman, who lash out at the drinking age, with binge drinking. The abuse of alcohol by young people can likely be prevented, certainly not in all cases but in many.
In most European countries moderate drinking is common by teenagers. These teens have been taught about the dangers of alcohol and were brought up by parents who let their children experience alcohol moderately. Whelan observes, “Though the per capita consumption of alcohol in France, Spain and Portugal is higher than in the United States, the rate of alcoholism and alcohol abuse is lower “(84).
United States parents should take the hint from Europe and educate their children about alcohol. Parents should not just say alcohol is bad and evil. Parents should teach about the effects of alcohol, how to drink properly and when alcohol is appropriate. Parents have the chance to properly educate their young adults. These young adults will experience alcohol somewhere and will be given an education by someone. The lessons of alcohol should be learned at home.
There are many possible remedies to the problem of underage alcohol abuse. The best possible curative would be to lower the drinking age to nineteen, not eighteen. At eighteen many young adults are still in high school. However, at the age of nineteen most young adults are out of high school or close to graduating. The thought of high school seniors legally drinking would put a bad taste in many citizens’ mouths. In Canada, the drinking age is already nineteen which entices many nineteen or twenty year olds across the border for a drink.
Our young adult population lashes out at the law by drinking excessively. There are too many young adults being hurt while abusing alcohol. Too many deaths, rapes and accidents have occurred. This illegal action can be deterred, and many lives will be saved, but only through the education by parents and society. The drinking age should and can be lowered with the approval and assistance from the citizens of the United States.
Whelan, Elizabeth. “Perils of Prohibition.” Current Issues and Enduring Questions. Ed. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999. 83-85