The American government has had a history of aggressively regulating alcohol consumption. In the 1920s, religious groups spearheaded the Prohibition movement, and even after the Depression, people couldn’t get a drink when they needed it most. This sample persuasive essay from Ultius argues that the American drinking age should be lowered from 21 to 18 years of age.
Should America lower the drinking age?
The Prohibition era was short-lived and proved futile as a means from which the social behaviors of the American people could be governed, alcohol remained central to many future policymakers’ endeavors and decisions. While the legal drinking age has remained stagnant at 21 years of age throughout the United States, many individual states have taken up new legislation to broaden their control over alcoholic beverage sales (Weschler & Nelson, 986). Although actions like these are viable in terms of building a healthier population, they are not conducive to a country that so adamantly preaches liberty and freedom for all its 18 year-old citizens, thus rendering the current drinking age innately flawed.
Support for the current drinking age
Regardless of social and religious beliefs, there are many solid arguments that support the current legal drinking age in the United States. For one, proponents of the age requirement suggest that the drinking age has helped maintain young people’s health and public safety. According to Alexander C. Wagenaar,
“there are a number of health benefits associated with a higher legal minimum drinking age, and it is argued that such information should be considered in discussions concerning the minimum legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages” (Wagenaar, 219).
Wagenaar and Traci L. Toomey also emphasize that teen binge drinking can be catastrophic for brain development, and that alcoholism and other serious drinking problems which require recovery and support can arise in young Americans (Wagenaar & Toomey 208). While the scholars note these longstanding issues well, the most pervasive argument used by the government to establish a 21-year-old drinking age stemmed from statistical data that seemingly proved that there were too many drunk driving accidents of in young people aged 18 to 21 (Engs & Hanson, 1085).
The inherent dangers of alcohol
These problems, no matter how serious, will continue to be prevalent regardless of the drinking age. As David J. Hanson and Ruth C. Engs would have it:
“regardless of the actual American drinking age, many young people would continue to drink in the United States, binge drinking if necessary, because alcohol is easily findable for people not of age and can be exploited” (Engs & Hanson, 173).
Moreover, statistical evidence now proves the fallacies in the argument that a higher minimum drinking age deters automobile deaths. In their study on the American drinking age, Peter Asch and David T. Levy articulate that,
“the legal drinking age has no perceptible influence on fatalities, but inexperience in drinking is an apparent risk factor independent of age” (Asch & Levy, 180).
The scholars go on to interpret numerous sources and large amounts of data which yields a consistent result; that age itself, or inexperience on the road, is more of a cause for past drunk driving accidents than the drinking age itself (Asch & Levy, 183). Thus, as young people faced with the challenges of the future, we must acknowledge that the drinking age has far less effect on alcohol-related deaths than the way in which these deaths occur themselves.
Change is needed
It is important that young Americans address these issues with their policymakers and legislative bodies. Changing the drinking age is something that will not come easy; a great deal of federal funds rest on state assurance and compliance to maintaining a 21-year-old drinking age. However, it is important that active Americans understand their constitutional rights, and fight for an 18-year-old minimum drinking age. No one should be able to fight in war, vote, and own their own property without having the ability to drink or purchase alcohol legally. Moving forward, it is our job to alter this longstanding trend.
Asch, Peter & Levy, David T. “Does the Minimum Drinking Age Affect Traffic Fatalities.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. 6(2): Winter, 1987. Web. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from .
Wagenaar, Alexander C. “Effects of an Increase in the Minimum Drinking Age.” Journal of Public Health Policy. 2(3): Sept., 1981. Web. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from .
Wagenaar, Alexander C. & Toomey, Traci L. “Effects of the Minimum Drinking Age Laws: Review and Analyses of the Literature from 1960 to 2000. Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 14(1): 2002. Web. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from .
McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression: America 1929-1941. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1984.
Engs, Ruth C. & Hanson, David J. “Reactance Theory: A Test with Collegiate Drinking.” Psychological Reports. 64: 1989. Web. Retrieved May 3, 2012, from .
Engs, Ruth C. & Hanson, David J. “Boozing and Brawling on Campus: A National Study of Violent Problems Associated with Drinking over the Past Decade.” Journal of Criminal Justice. 22(2): 1994. Web. Retrieved May 3, 2012, from .
Weschler, Henry & Nelson, Toben F. “Will Increasing Alcohol Availability by Lowering the Legal Drinking Age Decrease Drinking and Related Consequences Among Youths?” American Journal of Public Health. 100(6): June, 2010. Web. Retrieved May 2, 2012, from .
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