Why 18

Besides the fact that much evidence cited in favor of the 21 year-old drinking age is exaggerated or misinterpreted (see previous post), there are several arguments against it:

  • The 21 year-old drinking age is an abridgment of the age of majority. By 18, Americans are legally adults and are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities that come with that role but one: the freedom to choose whether or not to consume alcohol.
  • The 21 year-old drinking age marginalizes the role of parents in the process of teaching and encouraging responsible decisions about alcohol use. There is near-consensus cross culturally that parents play an indispensable role in introducing their children to responsible alcohol use. The 21 year-old drinking age effectively eliminates this important parental role, forcing parents to either break the law by serving their under 21 year-old sons and daughters alcohol at home or to risk having their children’s first exposure to alcohol be at an unsupervised college or high-school keg party.
  • Under the 21 year-old drinking age, fewer young people are drinking, but those who choose to are drinking more. This alarming rise in the rates of binge drinking on campuses and in communities around the nation has caused a major, national public health problem. Almost daily, we are bombarded with horrific stories of heavy drinking teens and young adults. Between 1993 and 2001, 18-20 year olds showed a 56% increase in episodes of heavy drinking, the largest increase among American adults. The recent media barrage could not be more clear: the 21 year-old drinking age does not keep young people under 21 from drinking, and drinking dangerously.
  • The 21 year-old drinking age breeds disrespect for law and ethical compromises. The vast majority of people who drink in the United States began drinking before age 21, testament both to the inefficacy of the current law and of the rampant disrespect for its provisions. Because the law is inconsistently enforced and easily circumvented by underage drinkers and those who provide them with alcohol, it has created a climate that makes it all too easy for young adults to obtain and consume alcohol without realizing the legal and ethical consequences of their actions.

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