Lower the Drinking Age

Lower the Drinking Age

Aidan Lancaster

The debate to lower the drinking age back to eighteen as it was in the 1970s is back in the spotlight.  The opponents say that eighteen-year-olds are irresponsible and are not to be trusted to handle alcohol.  However, others plea that if eighteen-year-olds can die for their country, they should be able to buy or to consume alcohol.  The fundamental question is if the United States recognizes eighteen-years-olds as adults, why these same are people unable to drink.  In European countries where the drinking age is eighteen and in some places not prohibited by age at all- drinking is a far less serious problem because people are accustomed to it.

Every year thousands of eighteen-year-olds embark on a plane or ship to Afghanistan not knowing if they are going to return home.  If they are fortunate enough to come back they are unable to share a beer with their families.  This is a reality for thousands of veterans under the age of twenty-one.  These soldiers have been through turmoil.  They are looking to relax and to enjoy a normal life.  It is almost comical to think that someone can die for their country, and upon arriving home on the 4th of July to celebrate the independence of their country cannot share a beer with their father and grandfather.

Eighteen-year-olds are official citizens of the U.S.  Eighteen-year-olds can vote for the leader of this country.  Eighteen-year-olds can drive, get married and buy a home.  So why can’t they drink?  This is not to say that underage drinking is not a very big problem in the United States.  It is.  But the answer is not prohibition for eighteen-year-olds, but education that teaches responsibility.  Education has raised awareness about cigarette smoking, wearing seatbelts and eating fatty foods.  It can work for underage drinking if the messages are accurate for teenage audiences.

The critics against lowering the drinking age say that adolescents under the age of twenty-one will abuse the privilege and are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of drinking.  This argument does not bear out in many foreign countries.  Elsewhere “in the world, age twenty-one ain’t nothing but a number, and similarly, alcohol does not receive the same cultural stigmas” (Jeff Frantz).  In European countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom, drinking is a part of society and life.  Pubs are meeting places for family and friends.  Overseas alcohol is not a “forbidden fruit” but rather a way of society and culture.  From a young age European learn the responsibilities of alcohol and when it is around, they are inclined to abuse it but rather enjoy it.  Europeans are “used to experiences with alcohol earlier, so when you’re eighteen, you’re more responsible about it and can take care of yourself and your friends” (Jeff Frantz).  In European countries in 2007 there were 15, 387 deaths caused by alcohol poisoning or binge drinking.  Compare that to the 63, 718 fatalities in the U.S due to alcohol abuse (Political Calculations).

In conclusion, the drinking age should be lowered to eighteen.  How can we tell a wounded eighteen-year-old Marine who comes limping home that he can’t have a beer?  If the drinking age is lowered to the age of eighteen it will lower the mystery and excitement about drinking.  Binge drinking will decrease because kids will be more accustomed to it and not abuse it and do it secretly on the weekends.  It’s the right thing to do and will make for some happy soldiers on the 4th of July.