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The Drinking Age Debate

The Drinking Age Debate

It’s never fair to make assumptions, but it is pretty fair to say that, for many college students, drinking and dorm life go together like, well, a martini and an olive. More than one-third of college students admit to binge drinking at least once during a two-week period, according to a study conducted last year by the American College Health Association.
That may be one of the incentives that lead more than 100 college presidents to sign a petition last month, asking for a debate about whether the minimum legal drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18. Their reason? “Twenty-one is not working.”
When it came time for health experts to weigh in on the proposal, some were left shaking their heads while others thought it may just be the ticket to lowering binge drinking amongst college students. Most health professionals agree that lowering the drinking age is a bad idea, citing an increase in traffic deaths, decreased memory capabilities and a tendency to develop an alcohol addiction as reasons for keeping the legal age at 21.
Choose Responsibility, the non-profit group who circulated the petition, says increased binge drinking rates amongst non-legal youngsters and proof that younger drinking ages in other countries have resulted in less alcohol abuse by teenagers are just a couple reasons why the decreased age limit might work.
Here is what we want to know from you: If you're old enough to serve your country, are you old enough to have a drink? [Los Angeles Times]

Posted: 9/5/08

Yes, this is a difficult debate. I think the physical age is less important than the societal mindset, as Caroline mentioned. Drinking tends to be much less … “exciting” engagement for kids in Europe because it’s not taboo for them. They tend to be more responsible with their drinking, and perhaps an even more important factor is that most parts of Europe have excellent public transportation systems. Drunk driving is not nearly as big of an issue over there as it is here. However, just because their system works well for them doesn’t mean that it would work for us here in the United States. Our cultures are very different. Personally, I would like to see the drinking age lowered to 18. For one, I agree with the school of thought that it would help lower the binge drinking statistics (probably not initially, but in the long run, I think it would), and for two, those who serve our country certainly deserve the right to drink if they want. Again, age is arbitrary, what really needs to change are our attitudes toward alcohol.


I understand the psychology ... when you take away or deny something the tendency is to want it more. Being able to drink responsibly is the ultimate goal, so it seems like the sooner we can teach that the better.

It makes no sense to me that you can drive, vote, go to war, have a baby, get married ... and do any number of other things, but not drink.


I think this is such a touchy subject, and I believe that it really depends on the child and the environment to which he or she is exposed. If children are taught that alcohol is a type of "treat," something that is to be enjoyed in moderation, then, perhaps, their tendency to abuse alcohol will be minimized. I think children's inclination to abuse alcohol is also determined by what they learn from their parents. For example, many children will subscribe to the, "Well, my mom/dad smokes, so I do too."

Alcohol and age are also affected by alcoholism, and whether or not it is something that is prevalent within a family. If a child is taught at a young age that this is a familial problem, then the hope can only be that he or she will be more aware of the consequences of abusing alcohol.

Again, a tough, tough subject.


I don't think it's a matter of age, but a matter of teaching how to enjoy alcohol responsibly. In many other countries teenagers are introduced to drinking a lot younger with a glass of wine here and there and by the time they're 21 it's not really a big deal. Whereas in our society, there is so much emphasis placed on binge drinking as an adult ritual that when it comes time for the "power hour," college students drink an alarming and dangerous amount of alcohol.