Should the Legal Drinking Age be Lowered?

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Can you honestly say that you never had an alcoholic drink when you were under the legal drinking age? In the United States, the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is considered to be 21 which includes the purchase and consumption of any alcoholic beverages. The minimum age for purchasing alcohol has changed many times over the years, and at one-point states were able to set their own age limits for purchasing alcohol. The current MLDA was signed into law on July 17, 1984, by President Ronald Reagan and passed by Congress.

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It is a 34-year-old decision; therefore, it is time for the legal age decision to be determined again. It is a new time and we have more information on the matter. One can see that age restriction goes against certain fundamental rights, in that it is contradictory to other adulthood rights. Research shows there is less potential for abuse of the system, when the thrill of illegally obtaining and consuming alcohol is no longer part of the equation. According to US Legal, an adult is someone who has met the age of majority, at which time currently is the age of 18, and is given full legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood. It is also the age at which a person is liable for their own actions and held accountable, such as contractual obligations or liability for negligence.

We reach the age of majority, where rights given to citizens are able to be exercised, which includes the right to vote, consent to marriage, serve on a jury, buy tobacco, serve our country, and make a will at 18 years of age. At this milestone age, we are able to make life-altering decisions that not only effect ourselves but potentially may affect others and our country, yet we are not given the right to consume alcohol, legally. By setting the legal drinking age at 21, 18-year-olds, who are considered to be adults as mentioned above and in so many other ways, aren’t truly adults because they still have restrictions on their rights to do this one action. The age differential creates several issues; for example, individuals’ intent on consuming alcohol may ask a friend or even a stranger to buy the alcohol for them. Under-age drinkers may not call 911, when necessary, for fear of legal consequences if an accident were to happen. And still, another example is that instead of being able to be monitored by a parent while still at home (many seniors are 18 before they graduate high school) the underage drinker goes out and binge drinks, which is often also a popular activity to do while in college. Underage drinking has and always will be a problem for America. As a teenager/young adult, there is a certain thrill of being rebellious and doing something illegal.

In fact, some may think they are cool for doing this, or that it is also a rite of passage during college years. Many people may be scared of lowering the drinking age because they don’t want to make it easier to access something that can cause so many problems and can become addictive. Other decisions, made by young adults, like tattoos, piercings, or even smoking/chewing tobacco are all things that can be as addictive and cause serious problems, but are attainable by anyone 18 years of age. While these examples may not be viewed in the same way as alcohol consumption by all, it starts in the same way. A friend, or a classmate encourages you to do it or to just drink one. It may be hard to believe, but by being legal to drink while 18, a reduction in the MLDA could actually lessen the chance of reckless drinking. The benefits are many. Parents would have the opportunity to help their child learn to drink responsibly without the fear of consequences. The parent would have the time to slowly introduce or observe their children’s interaction with alcohol and advise them, so kids wouldn’t feel like they had to go behind their parents back, thus risking jail time for illegally gaining and consuming alcohol.

There is a saying by Pliny the Elder, In wine there is truth and with teens, they use that quote in a more commonly phrased saying: Drunk words are sober thoughts. On another more philosophical level, it can be interpreted as, consuming alcohol allows the mind to operate with fewer restrictions and controls. In this day and age, there are many things that limit our minds and controls how we view things as a society, culture, and in our policies. Without these limitations, certain inhibitions can be unlocked, with new found insight, building bridges between two topics, and hearing honestly from people who wouldn’t typically say anything otherwise. Another way to look at it is what Martin Heidegger described as living an inauthentic life. Heidegger proposed that in an inauthentic life, One pretends. Living a conventional life emphasizing present activities without concern for the future. Giving up freedom and let others make the choices of one’s life. This is how many 18-year-olds feel. That they are living an inauthentic life because their choices, regarding the legal age of drinking, are mandated by laws that take away their freedom and right to choose to purchase and consume alcohol.

I feel strongly about supporting a change in lowering the MLDA back to the time when states could set their own MLDA; however, I do believe the responsible thing to do is to have a national minimum age of 18 set across all states. I would encourage all my friends and family to drink responsibly and be respectful of everyone. In addition, I would promote and advise safe drinking and support strict laws for underage drinking and driving, while also mandating severe consequences for breaking the law if the legal drinking age were to be lowered. It may seem cliche to say, but there is truth and relevancy in the fact that 18-year-olds can go to war. They can vote. They can smoke. They can do all sorts of things afforded to them in the rite of passage to adulthood at the age of 18, except purchase and consume alcohol. How is that justifiable? It is a new era and it is definitely time for another change in the MLDA.

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