Reducing the Minimum Drinking Age to 18 The laws concerning the minimum drinking age in this country sometimes seem ridiculous and unnecessary. In this paper, I will discuss why certain laws are unfair and I will provide alternatives to certain problems concerning underage drinking and binge drinking. Let’s face it, no matter what laws the government enforces to cut down on underage drinking, it is commonplace and happens everywhere from grade school through high school and predominantly in college. The government is looking to stop teen drinking rather than manage it. According to Time Magazine, half the students age 10 to 24 questioned in a 1999 study by the Centers for Disease Control said they had consumed alcohol in the preceding month. If the minimum drinking age was reduced to 18, or at least made to be more convenient and logical, I believe a cut down on underage drinking would occur.
In Pennsylvania, at the age of 16, anyone can get their driver’s license after about 6 months of road time and studying rules and laws about driving. Next, at the age of 18, teens can smoke cigarettes until their lungs turn black, they can buy shotguns and handguns, and they can even be drafted into the military from the protection of their own homes. All of these privileges and responsibilities are opened on a teens 18 th birthday, yet they can’t sit down and have a few beers with friends and / or family. The fact that 18 year old men can be taken from the shelter of their own homes and forced to train for the military and go fight in a sometimes endless and merciless war, yet at the same time, cannot enjoy an ice cold beer simply baffles my mind. The minimum drinking ages overseas are lower than in the US and allow for certain things like drinks with a meal in a restaurant and sometimes the ages are even separated into lighter liquors, such as beer and wine, and a higher age for spirits. One of the most similar laws concerning the minimum age of drinking is that of South Korea.
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The minimum drinking age in South Korea is 21 or a college student. This law portrays that the South Korean government believes that if someone is responsible enough to go to college or any other secondary school, they are responsible enough to drink. The US has one of the highest and unforgiving minimum drinking age laws in the world. What makes the number 21 such a special age anyhow? Does that extra 3 years of aging from 18-21 make someone more responsible or more able to handle his or her alcohol? From what I have seen and heard from my own experiences, no.
If someone waits until they are 21 to start drinking, they will get buzzed and their thought process can be altered off very little alcohol. If the drinking age is reduced to 18, teens can responsibly drink and can learn their lessons about how much is too much, etc. When drinking is legal, it takes place in the open, where it can be supervised by police, security guards, and even health-care workers. When the drinking age went up, the spigot was not turned off; it was simply moved underground-to homes or cars, or frat-house basements-where no adult could keep an eye on things. Middlebury president John McC ardell says, “The 21-year drinking age has not reduced drinking on campuses, it has probably increased it.” This idea goes back to childhood where parents tell a child not to open a certain box or to not touch the stove, but until the child touches the stove and learns that it is hot, they will always be curious as to why they are forbidden to do something. Telling a child or even a teen that something is off limits, makes it even more appealing to them.
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Some alternatives to this high and strict minimum drinking age could be to give all students a state funded alcohol awareness program while in high school. If students are taught about the risks and dangers of excessive drinking, they will be more likely to refrain from doing it. Nowadays, the courses concerning alcohol awareness are more about preaching that drinking is bad, rather than teaching someone how to drink responsibly. This principle is similar to driving a car.
Once a young man or woman gets their learners permit at the age of 16, they can drive in a car with someone else over 18 to get their required road time. Once knowledgeable and able to drive on their own, they receive their driver’s license and are able to drive without a chaperone. If teens were taught how to deal with the pressures and effects of drinking, as well as being taught as to when enough is enough and how to deal with specifically the brain-altering effects, there is no reason as to why they should not be permitted to drink. What does more damage — a 2-ton automobile or a can of beer? Another alternative could be to allow college students who are registered in the military to consume alcohol. The US should take heed to South Korea’s minimum drinking age law. This would bring drinking out from underground and allow it to be done under the supervision of police, security guards and other health-care workers.
I definitely believe that if a teenager is responsible enough to go to college and / or fight for their country, they should be allowed to drink without restriction. Hobart and Smith sociology professor H. Wesley Perkins, who conducted a study in 1996 that showed that teens at more than 100 college campuses believed excessive drinking was more prevalent than it actually was. So they questioned- if teenagers, conformers by temperament, believe drinking is rampant on campus, might they be more inclined to pickup the habit? On the other hand, they knew that the heavy drinkers were not in the majority, might moderation suddenly seem more attractive. In 1997 Hobart and William Smith spent about $2000 to find out. With the help of posters and newspaper ads, college officials publicized the fact that a majority of students on campus drank twice a week or less, that the majority of seniors consumed four or fewer drinks at parties, and that three-quarters of the alcohol on campus was consumed by just one-third of the students.
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This approach is known ad the “social-norms” approach is in effect at a number of other colleges with incredible results. Over the first two years of this approach at Hobart and Smith, the university measured a 21% drop in high-risk drinking. Northern Illinois University has seen a 44% reduction in binge drinking, Western Washington University is down 20% and the University of Missouri Columbia is down 18%. Fake IDs and underage drinking, long a stable of the late teens, have been in the news quite a few times, since the 19-year-old twin daughters of President George W. Bush, Jenna and Barbara, had a brush with the law. The sisters were cited by the police after their visit May 19, 2001, to a Mexican restaurant in Austin.
Two weeks prior, Jenna Bush had pleaded no contest to underage drinking and was ordered to receive alcohol counseling and perform community service. Studies show that the average age that teens start drinking dropped from about 18 in the mid 1960’s to about 16 in the late 1990 s. This shows that when the minimum drinking age was lower, teens waited until they were allowed to drink. Now, the fact that teens have to wait until the age of 21, they start drinking at a younger age, maybe trying to grow up faster. NBC could be contributing to the problem of promoting the use of alcohol.
In a newspaper article from the Washington Post from December 2001, Califano reports that NBC will run hard-liquor ads during programs for which only 15 percent of the audience is under 21. After all, a daytime show with a couple million viewers will expose only 300, 000 children and teens to ads promoting vodka and gin. Another guideline lets NBC air hard-liquor commercials where the secondary purchase is product promotion, such as those with social responsibility messages “may be scheduled in any network program whose audience is not composed primarily of children and teens.” This permits broadcasting such liquor commercials where 49 percent of the audience consists of minors. All of these things contribute to underage drinking and the marketing of alcoholic products to teens. If the minimum drinking age was reduced to 18, drinking would be brought out into the open and underage drinking would not be as much of a problem as it is today. The most logical alternative would be to use the “social-norms” approach and inform all college students that drinking is not as prevalent as they believe.
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This approach would let students know that it is cool to drink responsibly and would reaffirm that they are in the majority of responsible drinkers. Works CitedKluger, Jeffrey. How to manage teen drinking (the smart way).
Time; New York; Jun 18, 2001 Lester, Will. Teen Alcohol Use is Still Rampant Despite Nationwide Drinking Age. St.
Louis Post-Dispatch; St Louis, MO. Jul 6, 2001. Califano Jr, Joseph A. NBC’s Drinking Problem. The Washington Post, Washington, DC; Dec 18, 2001.