What about 19?

What do we think of a 19 year-old drinking age? Many of you have asked us this question, particularly concerned that an 18-year-old drinking age would translate to the widespread transfer of alcohol to high school students. This question is reasonable, and our response is as follows:

The age of majority is 18. At 18, young adults can vote, enlist in the military, serve on a jury, smoke, marry, and enter binding contracts. In the court system, they can be legally held accountable for their actions as adults. The “Fight at 18, Drink at 21?” argument is simple and powerful because it reflects the societal reality of what it means to be an adult. Interestingly, Legal Age 21, by forcing the consumption of alcohol out of the open, has infantalized these “adults.”

 Then there arises the question of infantile behavior. Indeed, 95 percent of those who will be alcohol consumers in their lifetime drank alcohol before the age of 21. Drinking is a reality in the lives of young adults; however, given the restrictions of Legal Age 21, they lack an opportunity to learn about moderate and sensible drinking from adults they respect. The result, understandably, has been infantile behavior that, given the present law, is difficult to change.

We believe that a lower drinking age will breed a more responsible culture of alcohol consumption. This will not necessarily happen independently, but rather, through a combination of education and licensing. These programs are fundamental to our proposal, as they help not only introduce young adults to the rights and responsibilies of legal alcohol consumption, but also help provide incentives that will limit the types of behavior implicit in your question. The timing of the drinking license (delivered after high school graduation), compounded with a more socially acceptable legal drinking age, will confer privileges that we believe will limit the transfer of alcohol to high school students.

 That brings us to the fundamental question — what about 19? The fact is, though our proposals make clear the benefits of a uniform age of majority (in conjunction with educational programs), we believe that a lower drinking age — of whatever number — is more important.  Most important, however, is public debate.

Until the federal highway appropriation condition is lifted, no state can be expected to engage in an informed public dialogue about the most appropriate drinking age for its territory. We believe that 18 with education works, but 19 works too. While not as glamorous as lowering the drinking age, the necessary first-step is fighting to lift the 10% highway condition, so that proponents of both 18 and 19 can be heard.

 We encourage you to discuss the merits of both 18 and 19. This topic is gaining traction in South Dakota, where a young lawyer from Flandreau, N. Bob Pesall, is starting a movement to lower the drinking age to 19. His efforts overlap with those of South Dakota state senator, Bill Napoli, who appears to be aiming for 18. Which do you prefer? Make your voice heard.

6 Responses to “What about 19?”

  1. P T H Says:

    There should not be a minimum drinking age. Parents should be the teachers of thier kids on how to drink responsable. Kids should learn how to drink before they learn how to drive.

  2. P T H Says:

    I do not agree with age 18 or 19 as the legal drinking age. Parents should be teaching their kids how to drink at an age that they, the parents, feel is the age for that kid. Even if the age is different from one kid to the other. Kids should learn how to drink before they learn how to drive.

  3. Brett Says:

    One possible compromise would be to have 18 as the age to consume alcohol or buy it by the drink at a bar, but 19 to buy it by the package (to discourage high school keggers).

  4. Corey Says:

    I agree with P T H. Abolish a drining age and let parents educate thier kids before these kids get behind the wheel at 15 or 16. Puerto Rico has less alcohol fatalities than the USA!

  5. Ajax the Great Says:

    I still think that 18 across the board is the best choice, and in the interest of justice, that is what we should ideally be aiming for.

    As for Brett’s idea of a consumption/possession age and on-premise purchase age of 18, but 19 for off-premise purchases, I think Virginia had something like that from 1981-1983. We could also add that it would be 18 for off-premise purchases for those with a college or military ID, since those folks are no longer in high school. That would be a reasonable compromise if a drinking age of 18 turns out to be too unpalatable (or scary) to the powers that be. While we may eventually need to compromise, it is best not to start off with a compromised position.

    However, I think that a better safeguard against high school keggers (which, let’s face it, occur now even with a drinking age of 21) would be to keep the purchase age for kegs, cases, and other bulk quantities at 21 (or 19 or 20) while lowering it to 18 otherwise. That would, by definition, ensure that there are no more keggers than there currently are now. Kegs and cases are generally not for personal use anyway, but six-packs usually are. Since 18-20 year olds would be able to buy their own six-packs (or small bottles of wine or liquor), there would be less desire (in rural areas) to drive to a far-away bar or an outdoor kegger. This plan would likely alleviate at least some of the opposition’s fear.

    In addition, requiring kegs and cases to be sold only in beer distributors and only before 10 pm (like they do here in PA) would also enhance the effect of the aforementioned keg/case restriction. Also, while many states have keg registration laws, only PA requires the buyer’s name and address recorded when 3 or more cases are bought in a single transaction.

  6. Jessica C Says:

    As a college student myself, I also question why the drinking age was ever changed in the mid 1980’s? Why is the age 21 and not 25? Why can an 18 year old buy cigarettes at the age of 18 instead of 21? On this planet containing 195 countries, only 4 countries have a drinking age of 21,which is only 2% of the entire world. If the other 98% of the world allows an 18 year old to drink alcohol, what are the reasons the United States holds against us? The questions are countless and repetitive among my peers all across the country. I believe there are methods and a corrective plan of action that can be taken to not only fulfill the concerns of the U.S Government, but also give 18 year olds the freedom and equality that they desire as well. Changing the drinking age from 21 to 18 will not completely solve the problems of alcohol related deaths and alcohol abuse in teens, a bigger plan of action must be taken in action. If alcohol is introduced at a younger age responsibly and gradually in a controlled environment, kids will learn at a young age that it is a dangerous substance and should be taken with cautiousness. If schools and parents presented improved education about alcohol use/abuse and took away the appeal of doing something “forbidden,” several groups deem a lower drinking age will essentially keep people safer. Some groups believe that the drinking age should be changed to 18 only with a certified “drinking licenses” acquired by taking classes such as a hunting license or a driver’s license. The group believes this change would inform young people about how to consume alcohol correctly with the supervision and regulation of older adults. The education of alcohol may take a few years in though introduction, but to last 21 years is just unfair.