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Debate: Lowering US drinking age from 21 to 18

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*'''[[Argument: 21 drinking-age general lowers under-age drinking| 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."[http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-20-drinkingage_N.htm] *'''[[Argument: 21 drinking-age general lowers under-age drinking| 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."[http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-20-drinkingage_N.htm]

Revision as of 21:48, 20 May 2009

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

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

Yes

  • 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.
  • 18-and-over law enables teaching of responsible drinking David J. Hanson, an alcohol researcher and professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Potsdam. - “I think we should teach young people how to drink as well as how not to drink.”[1]


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]


War: Is 18 a good drinking age since 18-year-olds go to war?

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.

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.
  • Alcohol consumption not comparable to military service. Robert Voas. "There's no benefit to lowering the drinking age". Christian Science Monitor. January 12, 2006 - "First, I'm not sure what going to war and being allowed to drink have in common. The military takes in youngsters particularly because they are not yet fully developed and can be molded into soldiers. The 21 law is predicated on the fact that drinking is more dangerous for youth because they're still developing mentally and physically, and they lack experience and are more likely to take risks. Ask platoon leaders and unit commanders, and they'll tell you that the last thing they want is young soldiers drinking."


Deaths: Would a drinking-age of 18 lower deaths from alcohol?

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.

No


Responsibility: Are 18 year olds responsible enough to drink?

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."
  • Infantilizing 18-21-year-olds enourages immature drinking John M. McCardell Jr., former president of Middlebury College and founder of Choose Responsibility (a pro 18-year-old drinking age activist group) - "If you expect adult behavior, you’re more likely to get it than if you infantilize people."[3]
  • 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]


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.
  • 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.”
At the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., front-loading is called “pre-gaming,” explains Melissa, a senior who drank illegally for three years. “We’d sit in our dorm rooms—18- and 19-year-olds—and try to drink as much as possible before going out. I think it goes on at every college. No one cares, even when they get caught. They think a speeding ticket is worse.”


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

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."


No

College: Would a lower drinking age help colleges cope?

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."
  • Laws undermine ability of colleges to send responsible drinkers into society. 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"



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.


Parents: Would lowering the drinking age help parents?

Yes


No

  • Lowering drinking age will undermine parental oversight. Robert Voas. "There's no benefit to lowering the drinking age". Christian Science Monitor. January 12, 2006 - "If bars and liquor stores can freely provide alcohol to teenagers, parents will be out of the loop when it comes to their children's decisions about drinking. Age 21 laws are designed to keep such decisions within the family where they belong. Our society, particularly our children and grandchildren, will be immeasurably better off if we not only leave the minimum drinking age law as it is, but enforce it better, too."

Enforcement: Is a 21 drinking age unenforceable?

Yes


No

Health: Is alcohol healthy in moderation? A reason to lower age?

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 .

No

Socializing: Is a lower drinking age better for socializing?

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.


No

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

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.


No

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

Yes


No

Public opinion: Where does the American public stand?

Yes

  • Americans are increasingly supportive of lowering drinking age.


No


Pro/con resources

Yes

No

External links


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