Time To Lower The Drinking Age?

Former President Emeritus, John M. McCardell Jr. of Middlebury College, started Choose Responsibility, a non-profit organization founded in 2007 to reopen the debate regarding the United State’s 21-year-old legal drinking age requirement.

Choose Responsibility supports a series of changes to treat 18, 19, and 20 year-olds as the young adults the law otherwise says they are. Current drinking laws infantilize young adults. We should not be surprised, then, by infantile behavior from otherwise responsible adults.

Likewise in 2008, the Amethyst Initiative, made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States was also born,  Their mission is to:

…call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

In 1984 the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by Congress which required that states prohibit the public purchase and/or consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 or lose 10% of their federal highway funding dollars.

I agree that after 25 years, enough time has passed to bring this issue back into the public forum for debate, which is all that these organizations want to do.

I also agree that the drinking age should be lowered.  Why?

Because as a society we have been successful in demonizing drinking and driving which has kept not only young adults, but all of us safer. That will never change.  It will always be uncool to drink and drive, whether you’re 80 or 18.

Because I don’t know a young adult not drinking due to the law that requires them to wait until they’re 21.  They simply drink in secret and when they get lucky either due to fake ID’s or entrance to a fraternity party, they drink in excess.

Because if an 18-year-old is adult enough to sign contracts, have their name and picture reported in the paper, die for their country, get married without parental consent and be in charge of their medical treatment, they are adult enough to drink a beer.

Because as a parent, I want to teach my girls how to drink responsibly the same way I’ll teach them how to drive safely.  Sending them off to college to learn how to drink from other co-eds scares me a hell of a lot more than giving them access to alcohol at a younger age.

Because it works in other parts of the world.

Recent research published by the World Health Organization found that in many European countries where the drinking age is 18 or younger (and often not enforced), 15 and 16 year-old teens have more drinking occasions per month, but fewer occasions of dangerous intoxication than their American counterparts. In many southern European countries roughly one in ten of all drinking occasions results in intoxication, while in the United States almost half of all drinking occasions result in intoxication. In these countries the introduction of alcohol typically comes from parents. In the United States, where the drinking age is 21, parents are not legally afforded that opportunity, and as a result initiation to alcohol consumption is not responsibly controlled. ~ Choose Responsibility

I’m a big believer in setting up children to succeed.  Sending them off to independent lives without the tools needed to drink responsibly, is unfair at best and irresponsible at worst.

So I agree.  Lets reopen this dialogue.  And if drinking legally at the age of 18 means a few more sin taxes to pay for all these promises by our government – so be it.

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2 responses to “Time To Lower The Drinking Age?

  1. I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for some time now. I believe we need to lower it to 16. In Italy, my friend’s teenage son and his friends all drink. Here is what they do – have a beer. That’s it – One beer. Like you might hava a soda. Like adults might have a glass of wine with dinner. He scoffs at american teens who think they need to drink the whole keg to enjoy themselves.

    We need to be able to teach our kids how to drink before we we send them off to college. I say lower the drinking age to 16.

  2. That makes sense – 2 years to drink while in the home with your parents and/or guardians before leaving to go to school or work. Smart.

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