Why the drinking age in the U.S. should be lowered to 18.
Why the drinking age in the U.S. should be lowered to 18
Getting to 18 years of age is an important milestone for a US resident because it is the legal age for independence, allowing the individual to make his or her decisions regarding tobacco smoking, driving and even joining the armed forces while being treated as an adult by the justice system. While this statement is essentially accurate, it is untrue concerning the ability to purchase and drink alcohol. This is because the US law has set the threshold for alcohol purchase and consumption at 21 years of age (Mistral 1980). The question then remains; if an individual is considered an adult at 18 years of age, is it not right to allow them to purchase and consume alcohol at the same age? Answering this question has been a matter of polarizing debate, with those in support of and opposition to lowering the drinking age presenting valid arguments. The present paper discusses the same argument with a subjective bias towards supporting calls for the US legislators to lower the legal drinking age to 18 years.
The debate on the drinking age is one that has been there from the beginning of the 20th century. This is because alcoholism has become a public delinquency problem with the government forced to step and set limits. The intervention took the form of the 1919 18th Amendment that prohibited alcohol making, trade, and consumption within the US. Rather than act as an effective deterrent, the amendment pushed alcohol underground with the result that criminal elements now controlled its manufacture and trade as a highly lucrative commodity. Realizing that the 18th amendment was ineffective, the government decided to repeal the amendment and replace it with the 23rd Amendment that set legal alcohol consumption ages across the country with the state legislators allowed to set legal limits. The majority of the legislators settled on 21 years as the most appropriate age for legal alcohol consumption, although some of them presented 18 years as the legal limit for beer consumption (Garcia et al. 261).
While the legislation concerning the legal limits were clearly set with the good intentions of reducing crime and having a more sober nation that had the capacity to be productive, it has clearly failed. In fact, the Amethyst Initiative (a movement that was set up by the administrators, students and staff of tertiary institutions with the intention of lowering the minimum drinking age) believes that the law is obsolete and behind the times. This is because students have used the law as an excuse for binge drinking away from the police focus and attention. They simply hide and organize drinking parties to celebrate breaking the law. In essence, the law has created a heavy drinking culture that involves extreme and clandestine consumption. In addition, the initiative calls attention to the fact that adults in the US as using that age limit law as justification for the tenuous concept that adults have more control that the adolescents, thereby taking attention away the perils of drunkenness. It also mentions that the limit has been set at between 16 and 18 years in Europe with results that are more favorable. The initiative proposes that a more effective solution for ensuring the safety of adolescents in the US would involve legalization and education approaches that include mandatory classes for all students who are approaching 18 years of age, giving them knowledge of how alcohol consumption would affect their lives (Dowdall, 209-210).
Applying philosophical concepts and theories shows that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18 years. This is because 18 years identify an individual as an adult capable of making life changing and weighty decision. The choice of whether to drinking alcohol or not should be one of those decisions since these individuals are trusted with weightier issues, such as the decision on whether to join the armed forces, handle arms, and risk their life in war activities. In essence, repealing the present laws and lowering the age limit would be bringing the most happiness to the greatest number of people. The utilitarian theory that was presented by Immanuel Kant supports these sentiments. This is because it is an issue that involves people who are already considered as adults, therefore allowing them to make the choice on their own would bring them the greatest happiness. This does not mean that the adverse effects of alcoholism are to be ignored; rather, they should be approached pragmatically and accepted as issues that affect a very small percentage of the population. In essence, maintaining the limits and prohibitions at 21 years would be serving a small number against the larger number that wants the laws repealed. Besides that, the arguments for setting the legal limit at 21 years are invalidated by allowing 18-year-olds to use tobacco products when they have been documented to cause significant numbers of cancers. If the law is not repealed, then it would stand to reason that tobacco consumption and ability to join the army should be withdrawn from the choice capabilities of 18-year-olds since these are riskier activities (Walters 58).
Besides that, the issue of extreme and clandestine alcohol consumption can be traced to risk taking, whereby the adolescents are lured by the prohibition to engage in alcohol consumption. In fact, the youth is always seeking out potentially dangerous situations to test themselves (as evidenced by their propensity for extreme sporting activities that could turn fatal), thus ensuring that they approach alcohol as a test and thrill seeking activity. This ensures that when they acquire alcohol they will be inclined to binge drink, going for cheap and potentially dangerous alcohols that have very high alcohol content. They will not be looking to have a good time; rather they will be looking for the fastest way to get drunk. This would imply that lowering the legal limit for alcohol consumption to 18 years would discourage the youth from irresponsible drinking (Goldberg 135).
One must accept that the present legal alcoholic drinking age limit as applied in the US is not only unfair but also irresponsible. This is because it denies 18-year-olds the right to make their decisions even when that choice is not taken away in more serious situations such as joining the army and smoking cigarettes. In addition, the law was set to serve a function that it no longer serves. The reality is that the lure of danger and illegality causes the youth to drink irresponsibly and suffer the negative consequences of alcohol consumption. In essence, lowering the legal limit removes alcohol from the focus, relegating it to the fringes as one of the choices that have to be made thereby reducing the thrill associated with its illegal consumption. Lowering the legal limit makes it easier to inform that youth that alcohol can be consumed lightly and in a socially responsible manner, ensuring that they no longer engage in extreme (binge) and clandestine alcohol consumption. They will no longer need to sneak around and will consider alcohol as just one of the decisions they must make as adults. Therefore, the US legislators should seriously consider lowering the drinking age from 21 years to 18 years.
Dowdall, George. College Drinking: Reframing a Social Problem. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2013. Print.
Garcia, Jesus, Donna Ogle, Fredrick Risinger, Joyce Stevos, and Winthrop Jordan. Creating America: A History of the United States Beginnings Reconstruction. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin School, 2001. Print.
Goldberg, Raymond. Drugs Across the Spectrum, 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2014. Print.
Mistral, Willm. Emerging Perspectives on Substance Misuse. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Print.
Walters, Glenn. Drugs, Crime, and Their Relationships: Theory, research, practice, and policy. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2014. Print.