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Debate: Lowering US drinking age from 21 to 18

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Should the United States lower its drinking age from 21 to 18?

Background and context

In the United States, young individuals must be of 21 years of age to drink alcohol. It is illegal for those under 21, and the punishment for breaking this law can be significant. This stands out from most countries in the world that have drinking ages of 18 or younger. Many in the United States have been questioning whether the law makes sense any more. Such questions have arisen, as they have in the past, during war-time, in which 18 year olds are sent to war, but are still not allowed to drink alcohol upon their return. In addition, many college students and groups complain that the law is simply unrealistic, that college students are drinking anyway, and that this sets a bad precedent for individual behavior in the face of the law. Family, conservative, and religious groups, however, strongly resist calls to lower the drinking age, arguing that 18 year-old are still not quite mature enough to take on the responsibilities of drinking and positing that it is better to put off vices such as alcohol consumption to later years. The debate continues apace.

Contents

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Consumption: Has the 21 age-limit failed to reduce under-age drinking?

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Yes

  • It has failed to reduce the ailing habit of drinking... Rather it has encouraged youngsters to fall into the clutches of this really dangerous addiction. It is not at all a good idea as teenagers, who are already at a very tender age of falling prey to certain not-so-good mistakes, further get a valid license to consume alcohol and damage their livers and ruin their lives. They acquire this awful habit and get addicted to it very quickly and it not only affects their health but harshly destroys their overall personality. The thing which all know is dangerous needs to be banned and not legalised for teenaged people.
  • 21 drinking-age has not reduced under-age drinking John M. McCardell, former president of Middlebury College in Vermont and founder of Choose Responsibility said, “It does not reduce drinking. It has simply put young adults at greater risk.” The federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2005, the most recent year for which complete figures are available, 85 percent of 20-year-old Americans reported that they had used alcohol. Two out of five said they had binged — that is, consumed five or more drinks at one time — within the previous month.
  • US drinking-age increases the desire for the forbidden fruit It is commonly believed that forbidden or inaccessible things often become more desirable to people. Alcohol, particularly for young individuals, is one of these things. Thus, forbidding 18-21-year-olds from consuming alcohol may actual increase the appeal of alcohol, increase its consumption, and increase related problems with it.
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No

  • 21 drinking-age general lowers under-age drinking Alexander Wagenaar, an epidemiology professor at the University of Florida who studies alcohol issues, says studies consistently show that raising the drinking age "has substantially reduced the amount of drinking and the amount of damage due to drinking."[2]
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War: Is 18 a good drinking age since 18-year-olds go to war?

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Yes

John J. Miller. "The Case Against 21. Lower the drinking age." National Review Online. 19 Apr. 2007 - "shouldn’t soldiers who are trusted with M-16s also be trusted with six packs?"
  • Some US states are considering to lower the drinking age to 18 to allow returning soldiers to be able to legally drink Several states are pushing legislation that would allow the drinking age to be lowered to 18. The main reason is the acknowledgment that the current legislation has failed to decrease binge drinking and health issues associated with drinking among the young. It is at the same time a form of honoring heroes that fight a battle in Iraq or Afghanistan when they are 18 and serve their country bravely but upon their return to the US they are unable to legally enjoy themselves by drinking legally.
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No

  • Safer roads with 21 drinking laws outweighs all trade-offs Obama told vets on March 19th, 2008, "I know it drives you nuts. But I'm not going to lower the drinking age." Obama told veterans that he sympathized with their predicament, but that setting the legal drinking age at 21 had helped reduce drunken driving incidents and should, therefore, remain.
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Deaths: Would a drinking-age of 18 lower deaths from alcohol?

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Yes

  • 21 drinking-age may not be responsible for lower driving deaths Multiple factors between 1982 and present can account for the fall in drunk-driving deaths, other than the increase of the drinking age to 21 that year. The dramatic increase in seat-belt use probably accounts for most of the improvement. Greater public awareness efforts and strict zero-tolerance laws were also a major factor. The increase of the driving age may have been a very small factor, compared to these and other variables.
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No


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Responsibility: Are 18 year olds responsible enough to drink?

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Yes

  • Introducing children to alcohol teaches responsible use National Youth Rights Association. FAQ - "The National Youth Rights Association doesn't just feel we should lower the age from 21 to 18 and change nothing else. We feel larger change must occur for people under 18 as well. Alcohol must be introduced gradually and at younger ages (12 perhaps) as they do in Europe. Young people must be allowed to get their feet wet through the introduction of alcohol in small amounts in safe environments like the home."
  • 21 law causes reckless/unsupervised under-age drinking John McCardell, the former president of Vermont’s Middlebury College and founder of Choose Responsibility (which seeks lower drinking ages) - "Prohibition does not work. Those [under 21] who are choosing to drink are drinking much more recklessly, and it’s gone behind closed doors and underground and off-campus."[4]


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No

  • Many states allow under-age drinking with parents/spouses All states ban selling alcohol to minors. And, nearly all states prohibit possession. Yet, many do not expressly bar minors from consuming alcohol in private, with parents/guardians, or with their spouses. States should be allowed to make these laws, and they have already done a good job of making them flexible. Further lowering the drinking age under all circumstances is unecessary and potentially dangerous.
  • Young people's brains aren't fully formed, so they're more susceptible to alcohol.
  • It protects them from pressure to drink.
  • Teenagers are not responsible drinkers. Given the number of teen car accidents, teen pregnancies, and other results of irresponsible teen behaviour, how can we trust these young people to drink responsibly?
  • American kids binge drink; lowering drinking age would be chaos Sean Flynn. "Should The Drinking Age Be Lowered?". Parade.com. 12 Aug. 2007 - “They don’t drink the way we drank a generation ago,” says Cynthia Kuhn of Duke University, an expert on the effects of drugs and alcohol. “There’s an increasing minority who establish blood-alcohol levels that are nearly lethal.” A practice known as “front-loading”—getting drunk on cheap liquor before a night out—is common, and alcoholic blackouts are no longer rare. “It used to happen to the weird, stupid kid who couldn’t hold his liquor, and he did it once,” says Kuhn, who teaches alcohol education to student groups. “Now, it’s typical.”


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Age discrimination: Is a cut-off at 21 age discrimination?

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Yes

  • Banning 18-year-olds from drinking is age discrimination National Youth Rights Association. FAQ - "Alcohol can be a very dangerous substance that causes problems for all people. This is as true for a 17 year old as it is for a 39 year old. The danger of alcohol is real and doesn't go away when someone turns 21. If an organization wished to ban alcohol for the entire population equally, then NYRA would have no reason to stand in their way. NYRA is definitely not "pro-alcohol", rather NYRA is "pro-youth" and we find it hypocritical that adults point their finger at youth while holding a beer in the other hand. It is time we recognize, and discuss the truth about alcohol rather than creating a young scapegoat for society to blame their alcohol troubles on. Through education, gradual entry, and a relaxing of strict no-use policy towards youth will make drinking safer for people of all ages."


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No

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College: Would a lower drinking age help colleges cope?

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Yes

  • 18-year drinking age makes college regulation easier "Lower the U.S. Legal Drinking Age to 18". Online Petition - "There have been many Colleges and Universities that disagree with the legal drinking age. These schools believe that by outlawing alcohol consumption from those students under 21 is only making the problem worse. If the drinking age were changed to 18, Colleges would be able to regulate alcohol use, so students would not become overly intoxicated. This would probably cut down on the number of College campus alcohol-related deaths, since Campus officials would be able to better monitor alcohol use."
  • 21 drinking-age undermines colleges shaping responsible drinkers Colleges are seen as a place in which young men and women are prepared to enter the real world. Yet, the the 21 drinking age undermines this effort. Middlebury president John McCardell put in the following terms: "Society expects us to graduate students who have been educated to drink responsibly. But society has severely circumscribed our ability to do that."[5]
  • The possibility of harming a students record because he engaged in underage drinking will be significantly decreased As most college freshman will have already turned 18 by the end of their first year in college the possibility of them being accused of engaging in illegal drinking and being reported or even expelled form their college is going to be significantly lower one the legal drinking age shall be 18. This enables students to perform academically and in the workforce without worrying about any possibility of having their record ruined by one foolish night of underage drinking"



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No

Simply Saves Lives. Over 40 percent of all the 16-to-20 year olds who died in 1994 were killed in car crashes, half of which were alcohol-related. The number of intoxicated youth drivers in fatal crashes dropped 14.3 percent from 1983 to 1994 -- the largest decrease of any age group during this time period -- indicating that the higher legal drinking age simply saves lives.
The article concludes that saving lives is "simply" the most important consideration, thus justifying the 21 age limit.


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Parents: Would lowering the drinking age help parents?

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Yes


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No

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Enforcement: Is a 21 drinking age unenforceable?

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Yes


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No

  • Difficult to enforce does not mean we should give up. Our laws were designed to show our limits; just because "everybody" does something does not mean that it is good.
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Health: Is alcohol healthy in moderation? A reason to lower age?

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Yes

  • Drinking is healthy in moderation. It is important to recognize that drinking in moderation is healthy. It is more healthy than abstaining from drinking, and, of course, it is more healthy than drinking in excess. It is important to teach minors healthy forms of drinking and unhealthy forms of drinking.
  • Acquiring drinking experience Lowering the drinking age allows for young people to gradually drink .The moment they enter college they will be legally able to drink and hence not affect their academic status by engaging in illegal drinking and being reported or even expelled. They will also get used to drinking in a social environment such as a club or bar and not home parties where abuse is more frequent since it fosters illegal drinking .
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No

  • State responsibility. The state has the ultimate responsibility to protect its citizens. It does recognize the individual's liberty to ruin his/her health, but it should strongly oppose anything that has a devastating impact (car accidents, broken homes) on others - such as alcohol consumption by teens.
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Socializing: Is a lower drinking age better for socializing?

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Yes

  • Carding is irritating and a hassle. It is annoying and disruptive to have to constantly show identification in the United States. Frequently, it ruins a night, for instance, when a member of a group forgets their ID at home.


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No

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In world: Is the US behind in lowering its drinking age?

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Yes

  • Visitors to the US find its drinking laws frustrating/laughable Many American college students find themselves going out on the town with under-age international students and having to explain why the United States does not allow them to drink. This is embarrasing, frustrating, and hampers bonding between Americans and foreign visitors.


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No

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Security: Does a drinking age of 21 help US security?

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Yes


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No

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Public opinion: Where does the American public stand?

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Yes

  • Americans are increasingly supportive of lowering drinking age.


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No


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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No

See also

External links


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