A Toast to Lowering Liquor Laws

By Amanda King
Voices Editor

As with many prevalent social issues, American laws regarding the legal drinking age have been slow to catch up with the rest of the world.

In the United States, it is not legally allowed for anybody to drink alcohol until they are 21 years old. This is the highest collective drinking age around the globe.

According to CNN, the majority of nations have legal drinking ages concentrated from 18-20, and while a few — like the U.S — require a higher age, many others are set even lower.

Some even have no age restrictions at all.

In the United Kingdom — and most of Europe — the minimum drinking age is 18; however, countries such as Italy, Germany and the Netherlands set the age as low as 16, as per the World Health Organization.

In Slovenia, you can drink alcohol at 15 — the lowest legal age worldwide. Likewise, African countries allows alcohol consumption either at 18 or have no set age.

Meanwhile, the only countries that require people to be 21 to purchase, sell and/or consume alcohol are Indonesia, Micronesia, Palau …
… and the United States.


Why, when nearly everywhere else it is legal for you to consume alcohol when you become a legal adult, does the United States require you to be 21?

To start, the biggest argument against lowering the drinking age is that doing so would increase reckless behavior — such as drunk driving, violence and alcohol poisoning, all of which would pose obvious threats.

Another concern is that it would give high schoolers access to alcohol, and many believe that teenagers in America are just not responsible enough to handle alcohol consumption during that period in their lives.

Although, this argument raises a bigger issue of why American teenagers are seen as so much more immature and careless than other countries, especially considering statistics do not necessarily support this widespread assumption.

While the U.S. is ranked average on the World Health Organization’s list of disabilities due to alcohol consumption, its percentage is equal to that of almost all western European countries and Canada — where the drinking age is 18.

It is even equal to that of China, where there is no minimum drinking age at all.

In any case, why are people so positive that dangerous outcomes will occur if the minimum drinking age is lowered?

The drinking age has never been set at 18 in America, so how can anyone say definitively that lowering it would produce bad outcomes if it’s never even been tested?

In fact, problems stemming from alcohol consumption would likely decrease if young adults were allowed to drink legally at a younger age, and thus gain a better understanding of alcohol’s effects.

If young adults could experiment at home, under supervision, they might not have so many problems stemming from alcohol after they reach 21, when most are out on their own in the world.

This is, of course, assuming young adults don’t consume alcohol before they’re 21 — which, let’s be honest, is extremely rare.

The statistics are overwhelming: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that by 15 years old, 33 percent of Americans have had at least one drink; by 18, it jumps to 60 percent.

People under 21 consume 11 percent of the U.S.’s total alcohol consumption; And while the adult population still consumes more total alcohol, when young people drink, 90 percent of the time it is binge drinking.

So, clearly, the law does not stop people under 21 from consuming alcohol — it just gives them more reason to do careless things to hide it.

The other big, compelling argument to keep the drinking age high involves health concerns raised by alcohol.

Numerous studies have shown that alcohol can interfere with brain development, cause crippling addiction, and/or other detrimental health effects.

Naturally, people are worried that harmful medical conditions such as these could result from allowing young adults to drink at a younger age.

However, according to the World Health Organization, drinking patterns among youths in western Europe are less detrimental than those in America.

This can be attributed to the fact that European youths are taught how to handle alcohol from a younger age and, thus, are less prone to engage is dangerous drinking habits.

Moreover, western Europe and Africa both had less alcohol-related deaths than the U.S. in 2018.

So how, with such evidence to the contrary, are people in America still so insistent that young adults cannot possibly handle alcohol before they are 21?

If you can enlist, go to war and die for your country at 18, why can’t you drink alcohol?

Surely we can all agree that picking up a loaded weapon and using it to kill another living person takes more maturity and responsibility than sipping a glass of wine.

If you can buy a gun at 18, why can’t you drink alcohol?

If you can get married, adopt a child and vote for the President of the United States at 18, why can’t you drink alcohol?

America needs to catch up to the rest of the world.

Keep in mind that the U.S. is also one of the only economically advanced countries that tried to ban alcohol altogether in the twentieth century.

The ban did wonders for the glamourization of the 1920s, but was woefully ineffective — just as the current age minimum for drinking alcohol is at preventing harmful consequences.

Children drank ale with dinner only centuries ago. Sure, cars and clubs weren’t around to pose a threat, nor were adverse health effects known.

But just as such things have evolved with the times, so too should our liquor laws.

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