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Nathan Turner
Mr. Dan Frank
English 1030
November 14, 2014
Should the Legal Drinking Age be Lowered?
In July of 1988, the Federal government made it illegal under Federal law to consume
alcohol under the age of twenty one. They accomplished this by threatening to cut Federal
highway funds to states that did not increase their minimum drinking ages to twenty one (Saffer).
The minimum drinking age was raised on the premise that it would decrease fatal automobile
accidents and alcohol abuse in young adults. Recent studies show that the percentage of fatally
injured drivers aged sixteen to twenty with positive BACs (blood alcohol content) decreased
from sixty one percent in 1982 to thirty one percent in 1995 (McCartt). This study showed that
the government accomplished what it wanted to do, which was to decrease the number of alcohol
related accidents in young adults, but this came at the cost of things like bootlegging and false
identification. According to a study in New York, when college students were surveyed before
and after the legal drinking age was raised to twenty one the studies found that the amount of
drinks consumed per week did not change and much more drinking was done at unlicensed
venues. These studies also found that much more drinking was being done in automobiles by
college students around the age of 18 (George). When looking at the positive and negative sides
of a minimum drinking age of twenty one it is important to understand that lowering the drinking
age would not lead to a huge increase in binge drinking for teens because drinking is less fun
when it is done legally, not to mention the number of teens that already binge drink regardless of

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a minimum drinking age. Looking back at the Roaring Twenties, almost everyone drank alcohol
illegally in the speakeasies when the government told them they were not allowed to because it
gave them a thrill. Similarly, most teens drink in places that are unsupervised like fraternity
houses or at random house parties whereas if the minimum drinking age was lowered they would
drink in places that are much safer. There are very legitimate reasons that consuming alcohol
should be illegal for anyone under twenty one, but if people are understood to be legal adults at
the age of eighteen then they should be able to make their own decisions. Underage drinking has
always happened and will continue to happen regardless of a legal drinking age, so why not
educate teens on the effects of alcohol and create a safer environment for those teens who are not
yet twenty one but still decide that they want to consume alcohol.
Underage drinking is allowed in 29 states if it is done under parental consent. If some
people are allowed to drink at a younger age then why are others penalized if they are caught? As
teenagers, we feel that at the age of 18 we are understood to have fully entered adulthood and
gained privileges like voting, purchasing tobacco products, obtaining a Drivers License, getting
married, and joining the military; basically anything except the ability to legally consume
alcohol. If, as a teenager, we can vote for the leadership and laws of our country, drive a vehicle
on federal and state funded roads, obtain a marriage license, and protect and defend our country
as an American soldier, then why are we not able to make a rational decision about whether or
not to consume alcohol? The thing that teenagers need to understand is that drinking should be
done in moderation and in a responsible fashion. According to a Gallup Youth Survey released in
1999, nine percent of teens aged thirteen to seventeen feel that they drink more than they should
and ninety six percent feel that they might become problem drinkers later in life (Snyder). The
problem is not in teens drinking, it is in teens not knowing how to drink. Some teens drink way

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more than their body weight will tolerate and a lot of times end up getting hurt either due to
alcohol poisoning or from making a bad decision like getting behind the wheel. In order to make
a larger impact on the harmful effects of alcohol consumption in teens, this country needs to take
a more realistic approach. Our government needs to realize that underage drinking will continue
to happen and instead of making criminals out of those that get caught, our government should
be educating people in the early stages of high school that alcohol will be present in their lives as
they get older and that they need to know how to control it if they decide to partake in it. This
paper is no way intended to encourage the consumption of alcohol, but rather to show the
controversy of the topic and to show multiple dilemmas facing the current laws and regulations
in place at this time.
When faced with questions like whether or not this country should lower the drinking age
it is always good to look at trends in history. Alcohol has been crafted and consumed since some
of the earliest times. Stone tablets carved by the Sumerians around 4000 BC show pictures of
bread being baked, crumbled into water to form mash, made into a drink and then consumed
(Snyder). More recently, prohibition gives a great idea of what happens when the government
tells its people that they are not allowed to do something that they enjoy. Prohibition first started
around 1851 when a temperance supporter by the name of Neil Dow began preaching at those
that drank alcohol saying that they were condemning themselves with their body-destroying,
soul-damning thirst (Smith). Dow saw anyone that drank as a threat to civilized society. With
the use of propaganda and heavy religious support he soon became a large reason that
organizations like the Anti-Saloon League were being formed. Although these organizations had
a heavy focus on religion, a lot of their supporters were just as guilty as those they criticized
because they too consumed alcohol (Smith). Fast forward 30 years later and the eighteenth

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amendment is passed making the production, consumption, and sale of alcohol illegal throughout
the country. Prohibition was foreshadowed to be a failure months before it was even put into
place when half a million gallons of alcohol were stolen from a government warehouse (Snyder).
During prohibition crime rates skyrocketed and gangsters like Al Capone and Kelly Wagle
became very popular and incredibly wealthy because they gave the people what they wanted and
could not get from the government, which was a lot of alcohol. In 1930 the U.S Justice
Department estimated that Americans were consuming around seventy three million gallons of
alcohol per year (Snyder). Underground activities in speakeasies became more and more popular
throughout prohibition times and more and more people began to drink. Why? Because it was
fun to do something that was against the rules. The underground alcohol scene continued to grow
until 1933 when President Roosevelt took a realistic approach and saw alcohol as a way to get
out of the Great Depression. Roosevelt won the presidential election in 1933 and weeks later the
twenty first amendment was passed, allowing alcohol to be produced in much safer ways and
distributed across the country. Taxes from the legal sale of alcohol were a large funding force for
Roosevelts New Deal which ultimately got America out of the Great Depression (Snyder).
Prohibition is a great example of the failures that come from the government putting limitations
on its citizens. Completely outlawing alcohol is a lot different than having a minimum drinking
age, but the concept is the same; people are going to drink if they decide that they want to
regardless of whether or not it is legal.
Although lowering the legal drinking age would result in a safer environment for those
that choose to drink before the age of twenty one, there are still a lot of dangers that could arise.
Drinking alcohol at an early age can cause damage to the brain that can lead to things like greater
vulnerability to addiction, dangerous behavior, reduced decision-making abilities, memory loss,

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depression, violence, and suicide (ProCon). Making alcohol easier to get for those fresh out of
high school would also make alcohol easier to get for the whole younger population. Also,
making alcohol available to people at a younger age could lead to more people becoming
dependent on alcohol. In 2007, a Gallup poll showed that seventy seven percent of Americans
support the minimum drinking age being at twenty one (ProCon). This percentage makes the
minimum drinking age being twenty one look very appealing, but this statistic is not very fair to
those that choose to drink before twenty one because nearly everyone that was surveyed was
already over twenty one and therefore is not affected by the law.
The only reason that the minimum drinking age was raised to twenty one was that the
government wanted to decrease the number of accidents caused by teens that were intoxicated.
The fact that it was accomplished is irrelevant to the minimum drinking age being raised because
the number of accidents caused by intoxicated drivers decreased across the whole population
(ProCon). Lowering the total number of intoxicated crashes was largely caused by an increased
awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving. In 2006, M.A.D.D (Mothers against Drunk
Drivers) launched a campaign to eliminate drunk driving. As a result, all 50 states have some
form of ignition interlock law for convicted drunk drivers. Any driver that has ever been
convicted of drinking and driving has to blow into a breathalyzer before his or her car will start.
This type of governing saves lives, which can be seen from a thirty percent drop in drunk driving
deaths since these laws have been put into place (MADD).
Regardless of what the legal drinking age is, people are going to continue to drink and
there will always be negative effects that come from it. Although there is never going to be a
perfect solution to the negative effects of alcohol, there are a few solutions that will help limit the
number of people that are hurt from those that choose to drink alcohol. One solution would be to

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have a system in place similar to that of obtaining a hunting license. Having teens out of high
school take a three hour course on how alcohol affects the body, the negative effects of alcohol,
and how much alcohol each person would be able to tolerate based on body weight and size. This
would be an ideal solution because it would increase the whole populations overall knowledge
of alcohol. Similar to getting a hunting license, having each teenager take a difficult test after the
three hour course to attain a license to drink alcohol would increase safety when it comes to
being responsible with alcohol. Having a penalty system for when adults get caught breaking
alcohol related rules would eliminate the ability for problematic consumers to purchase alcohol.
This penalty system could be like that of the drivers license where after a certain amount of
points are deducted the license is suspended and the consumer would not be allowed to purchase
any more alcohol. This would be a lot better than the system in place now where regardless of
how many times a consumer has been arrested for a DUI or other alcohol related crime, he or she
can still use his or her drivers license to purchase alcohol. Another solution would be to limit the
amount of alcohol that teenagers would be able to purchase. This could be accomplished by
having a universal database that will flag people that try to go from store to store to buy more
alcohol. This will keep each teen that chooses to drink the ability to buy alcohol and consume it
responsibly without drinking too much. One universal solution to the consumption of alcohol in
the United States for everyone would be to raise the taxes imposed on the purchase of alcohol.
According to the laws of supply and demand, raising the price of a product will lower the amount
of demand for a product. Less people will be able to purchase alcohol and it will be seen as more
of a luxury good. Not only would raising the taxes on alcohol help stimulate the below average
economy of today, it would also lower the amount of alcohol consumed by both young adults
and older adults alike. There are many solutions that could be put into place that would

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supplement lowering the minimum drinking age to eighteen that would not only lessen the
effects of alcohol on the environments where underage drinking is a problem but also lessen the
effects of alcohol on the whole population.
Should the legal age to drink alcohol be lowered? It seems like a question that really
cannot be answered. There are valid points from both sides. Lowering the drinking age will
provide those that are going to drink regardless of what the law is a safer place to consume
alcohol without having to go out of their way to avoid authorities. It will also lead to an
increased respect for law. On the other hand, lowering the drinking age will make it easier for the
younger population as a whole to obtain alcohol and it could lead to more people becoming
dependent of alcohol as they get older. Policies are already being put into place that are
decreasing the number of drunk drivers on the road. New policies could be put into place after
the drinking age is lowered that will help increase the whole populations knowledge of alcohol
and the dangers that come with drinking. Other policies like those stated in the previous
paragraph could be put into place that will lower the effects of alcohol on the whole population
regardless of age. In my opinion, lowering the drinking age and putting these policies into place
will ultimately lower the number of deaths caused by drinking and driving, have no effect on the
number of people that binge drink, and increase younger peoples respect for authority while
leaving a small chance of each individual becoming dependent on alcohol as they get older.

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Works Cited
George, William H., et al. "Effects of Raising the Drinking Age to 21 Years in New York State on Self
Reported Consumption by College Students1." Journal of Applied Social Psychology 19.8
(1989): 623-635.
"MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving." MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving. N.p., n.d. Web.
12 Nov. 2014.
McCartt, Anne T., Laurie A. Hellinga, and Bevan B. Kirley. "The effects of minimum legal drinking age
21 laws on alcohol-related driving in the United States." Journal of safety research 41.2 (2010)
: 173-181.
ProCon.org. "Minimum Legal Drinking Age ProCon.org." ProCon.org. 18 July 2014. Web. 10 Nov.
2014.
Saffer, Henry, and Michael Grossman. "Beer taxes, the legal drinking age, and youth motor vehicle
fatalities." (1987).
Snyder, Gail. Teens & Alcohol. Mason Crest, 2014.
Smith, Daniel. "The Rise and Fall of Prohibition in America." ESSAI 5.1 (2007): 34.
Voas, Robert B., A. Scott Tippetts, and James C. Fell. "Assessing the effectiveness of minimum legal
drinking age and zero tolerance laws in the United States." Accident Analysis & Prevention 35.4
(2003): 579-587.