Adjusting the US Drinking Age
Since I can remember the drinking age has always been 21 in the United States. Now I never lived in America more than a year, but as a current college student residing in America, the drinking law has affected me. Growing up in the Czech Republic, I am more familiar with the 18+ law. I recently transferred to the University of Tampa, so as a 20 year old college student the drinking law in the United States has me under its arms. The 21+ drinking law has not been working in the United States for years, and therefore I propose lowering the legal drinking age to 20 for starters. I also propose making a dual drinking age 18+ for beer and 20+ for liquor, restraining any alcohol content in blood for any alcohol consumers under the age of 20.
Everywhere else in the world apart from the United States, the drinking law is 18 or younger to consume alcoholic beverages. According to research done by studenttravel.about.com (Alcohol Drinking Ages Around the World) the legal drinking age is 18 and lower in countries such as Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Thailand. If in all countries by the age of 18 you are seen and treated as an adult, it should be considered normal to consume alcohol as at 18 years of age. The Merriam-Webster (Adult) dictionary defines an adult being someone who is “fully developed and mature”. Many researchers have argued this as the most just definition, and though it is seen as subjective, in my opinion maturity is defined in the morality of the character and actions of a person; someone who is fully responsible for him or herself in making moral decisions according to society’s norm. Students have argued that the United States should change their drinking law to 18 because of their comparison of legal voting at 18 to drinking. They have also compared the highly positioned drinking law to the fact that most American states allow their citizens to drive a car at 16, putting not only their own life in danger, but those in the car with and around them. The third and most used argument is that in Europe and the rest of the world the legal drinking age is 18 and the Europeans do not have problems with effects of alcohol consumption. As an Austrian citizen I agree that we do not have problems with drinking because due to the fact of growing up in such an environment my country better accustomed kids to alcohol. Growing up I would be served alcohol by my parents starting with small sips at a very young age to being able to drink without limits at an older age. In Europe most families approach alcohol with a loose arm where they will let the child know its effects, and not seclude them from it as the American government does with American children.
Due to the American government strictly restricting alcohol from adolescence under 21, factors that may occur worldwide due to over consumption of alcohol, occur more. According to the NIAAA (Underage Drinking), approximately 5000 underage drinkers die each year from drinking too much. Of these 5000, 1900 die in motor vehicle crashes, 1600 die in homicides, 300 die of suicide, and hundreds due to injuries, falls, and drowning. This itself is outrageous, but what surprised me more was when in 2005 the NIAAA did a survey in which they asked those underage drinkers if they drink, in which; three out of four 12th graders answered yes, two out of three 10th graders answered yes, and better yet two out of every five 8th graders answered yes. Now just because alcohol has become a dangerous substance, it doesn’t mean it should be completely banned from society. Adolescence drink because they like the thrill of taking a risk and the American government has made alcohol their forbidden fruit. Psychological aspects as well as Heredity factors and environmental aspects may have turn in some cases of underage drinking, but the biggest problem of all is lack of education due to such strict laws. Underage drinking can lead to teen pregnancy, violent crime, sexual assault, deaths, etc., since the law has been raised to 21 the underage drinking has increased too.
Alcohol is a part of culture; it has a history of its own. David J Hanson states “While no one knows when beverage alcohol was first used, it was presumably the result of a fortuitous accident that occurred at least tens of thousands of years ago.” (David J. Hanson) Hanson then goes on to mention the discovery of Stone Age beer jugs which conclude that alcoholic beverages existed as early as the Neolithic period around 10,000 B.C, moving on to Wine appearing in Egyptian pictographs as early as 4,000 B.C.. Both Beer and Wine were depicted as gifts to gods, and thus have stuck with us till today. Drinking has not only been around for such a long time but has as well been documented in scripts such as the Christian and Hebrew bibles, Greek literature as old as Homer, and in the Analects of Confucius. Drinking has also been adapted in our social lives, for example buying someone a drink is showing a gesture of gratitude, or peace; drinking together at a wedding or birthday party shows celebration of a happy occurrence and good news. Alcohol isn’t always viewed as a negative aspect, but as is said too much of something isn’t ever good.
The 18+ law works in the rest of the world because the countries have in most cases control of its citizens. In the Czech Republic I have never had problems with anyone due to alcohol. I am quite the social butterfly, so I spend a lot of time outside in bars and clubs. I worked in the media business, so at promotional events alcohol was an important factor. The biggest drinking problems caused in my country are by visiting foreigners who come to our country for our fine beer, women and low expenses. If the US drinking law was adjusted, we could possibly see positive changes in it’s’ citizens relationship to alcohol. Though Rob Cameron states otherwise in his article in new journal BBC, he to me cannot judge a country by researching and residing there a couple weeks, rather than living there many years. As Mr. Cameron states “Alcohol, particularly beer, is deeply ingrained in Czech culture..” (Are Europe's teenagers drinking?). If problems come forth due to underage drinking Police are quite strict. If a bar or club serves an underage child alcohol, not only is the bar fined a large amount, but the adolescence’s parents are accused of not educating their child enough.
I suggest the US drinking law is moved nationwide to 20+. It’s a compromise in which the change isn’t drastic but more of a compromise. At age 20, an adolescent is not a teenager anymore, but is at a reasonable age to make his or her own decisions. Changing the drinking law in one turn in America from 21 to 18 would be too drastic of a measure; therefore taking one step at a time in developing this law would benefit the country and its young citizens. Lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 would not only create hectic situations for those who are right out of high school, but within the American society would cause drinking at a younger age at a larger amount. The slight lowering of the law from 21 to 20 would be little of a hassle and would show some leeway to adolescence. I believe that when one approaches a conflict correctly those involved can learn and truly improve. Also incorporating two drinking laws for two different types of alcohol would teach adolescents to respect the alcohol more, not only learning to pace their drinks, but understand the dangers of stronger alcohol. At age 20 the liver of an adolescent is more likely to retain hard alcohol better than an 18 year old. Though researchers may argue that incorporating two drinking laws will create a controversy in the checking of the type of alcohol in a person’s blood in DUI situations; I would incorporate a second law which restrains drinkers under the age of 20 to drive with any alcohol content in their blood.
If alcohol wasn’t such a forbidden fruit to these American kids, then maybe they would respect it more, or enough to be more careful. Due to the actions of kids uneducated about alcohol the rest of the world looks at the alcohol abuse in America as a joke. Any American films show college kids going crazy and drinking belligerently. If the culture developed to better educating their citizens to better understand and respect alcohol, then kids wouldn’t have to drink so much behind their parents’ and the law’s back to relieve stress, and get in a good mood. By being introduced to alcohol at a young age at an appropriate amount, I have learned to drink reasonably and responsibly. Not only do I have strong morals towards the matter, but I lead my friends in the right manners as well. Because I was educated well and at a young age about the effects of alcohol, and was able to consume it with the chaperone present, I am now a mature drinker. I will never drink and drive, I do not drink belligerently, I pace myself, I do not play drinking games, and I always watch out for my friends. There are many students which hold the same approach towards the matter but I believe if every student approached this in the way the Law and Parents wouldn’t have to be so anxious about their children.