The legal drinking age of 21 has been a debate since it was implemented in 1984. The United States has one of the highest legal drinking ages in the world. Countries like Canada and the UK have drinking ages of 19 and the majority of countries around the world have a drinking age of 18. The youth have always questioned why they are able to join the military, drive, get married and have families, yet not be able to purchase an alcoholic beverage. Is lowering the drinking age a good idea?
There have been multiple studies suggesting there is an association between a person’s drinking age and potentially life threatening situations. Science World Report states that a higher drinking age leads to fewer car accidents, helps prevent dating violence, suicide, as well as unprotected sex. The main concern in university campuses is the frequent reports of binge drinking, which many feel is associated with the lack of availability of alcohol.
In July 2008 a group named Amethyst Initiative, formed by chancellors and presidents of universities across the U.S., was created. Their statement focuses on the culture of binge drinking in college and university campuses with the belief that educating students on abstinence is not the solution.
According to the Amethyst Initiative, students are more likely to acquire fake identification and engage in binge drinking in places where their safety and decision-making may be compromised. The initiative also presents the same debate most students question, “How is it possible for someone who is 18 years old to enlist in the military, participate in jury duty, and not be legally entitled to an alcoholic beverage?” It also puts into question the lessons of the Prohibition Era, an era that led to mass illegal consumption of alcohol. While the Amethyst Initiative does not specifically promote a lower drinking age, it does promote debate as to whether 21 years of age is the right answer.
The Boston University School of Medicine published a report where it was concluded that having a legal drinking age of 21 shows a positive impact. The study also took into consideration countries where the legal drinking age is under 21 years of age; New Zealand’s 1999 decision to lower the drinking age from 20 to 18 years of age is a prime example. Although it did see a moderate raise in drinking for those 18 years of age, it was the 16-17 year old teens that experienced that highest change in consumption. Europe was also included in the study, the continent’s medium drinking age is 18 years, yet it has the highest alcohol abuse per capita. The study concluded that lowering the drinking age would be conducive to long-term effects such as alcohol and drug dependency and may also lead to suicide and homicide.
According to the study, prevention of alcohol abuse in underage drinkers would require stricter laws that would enforce prevention of alcohol use and abuse. The study supports the theory of lowering the drinking age does not seem like a good idea and is not conducive to the betterment of alcohol abuse.
Would lowering the drinking age be a good idea? The debate will continue as long as binge drinking is part of the university subculture and as the Boston University School of Medicine study reports, the only probable solution is to have higher enforcement of underage drinking laws.
Editorial by Dony Lugo