Drinking is a habit that has been adopted by most people in the recent past, and with time the numbers continue to increase. For a long time now, most countries have enacted laws and regulations that determine the specific age that allows people to engage in drinking legally. These regulations differ from one country to another, with over 60% of the states globally capping their minimum legal drinking age at 18 or 19 years. Nevertheless, the United States has a minimum legal drinking age of 21 years. It has not been accepted in the country as a majority feel that the minimum legal drinking age should be 18 years. Therefore, it has been a point of debate over the years, and many reasons for or against lowering the age for alcohol assumption have been discussed. Therefore, this letter highlights some of the reasons why the U.S. Government should amend the minimum legal drinking age from 21 to 18 years.
Certain laws concerning the minimum legal drinking age are unfair in that they discriminate against adults who are aged above 18 years but are below 21 years. The reason is that the laws bar them from engaging themselves in drinking according to their wish terming them as ‘underage’. It is despite the fact that the legal age to be considered an adult in the US is 18, after which one has the legal rights and responsibilities that come with adulthood.[footnoteRef:1] Therefore, it does not make sense that a person is considered an adult legally when they attain 18 years of age and yet they cannot be allowed to drink because the minimum legal drinking age is 21 years. The ideal decision should be that once a person has attained 18, which is the legal age to become an adult, one can be allowed to fully explore all the responsibilities and rights that an adult ought to enjoy. [1:. Brachowicz N. Quintanilla, and Judit V. Costello, “Is Changing The Minimum Legal Drinking Age an Effective Policy Tool?,” SSRN Electronic Journal (2018). doi 10.2139/ssrn.3277295.]
The government has put in place laws to enforce the cutting down of drinking among the underage but it was inefficient. Underage drinking has become a common habit among students from grade school to high school and is even much more commonly practiced in colleges.[footnoteRef:2] It was resulted by the government’s approach of using these laws on drinking to stop underage and teen drinking instead of working towards how to manage the habit. According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children start engaging in drinking habits as early as even 10 years old.[footnoteRef:3] It is a clear indication that the underage is still able to get access to alcohol and consume it despite the laws prohibiting it. Therefore, the government should reconsider and put the minimum legal drinking age at 18 years when one becomes an adult legally. It will mean that once one is 18 years old, they become adults, and thus they can make their own decisions on whether to drink or not hence instilling a sense of responsibility. [2:. “Readers Panel – Promoting Responsible Drinking,” Nursing Standard 28, no 22 (2014): 28. ] [3: . Quintanilla, “Is Changing The Minimum Legal Drinking Age an Effective Policy Tool?.” ]
The minimum legal drinking age should be lowered to 18 years to give teens a chance to make personal informed choices as well as enable them to learn from their experiences and mistakes in life. If teenagers are made to wait until they are 21 and above to start drinking, they will easily get overwhelmed by little amounts of alcohol once they start.[footnoteRef:4] The reason is that they will start by drinking too much alcohol due to the lack of experience and owing to the fact that they have been made to anticipate the moment. When the minimum legal drinking age is put at 18 years, it will allow teens to practice drinking responsibly and in open places without the need to hide in secret places. Conversely, currently, teens are forced to hide in order to avoid being caught.[footnoteRef:5] However, if it is made legal to drink at the age of 18 years, the teens will drink in open places where the government can easily monitor and supervise them using the police or their parents. [4:. James C. Fell, Sue Thomas, Michael Scherer, Deborah A. Fisher, and Eduardo Romano, “Scoring the Strengths and Weaknesses of Underage Drinking Laws in the United States,” World Medical & Health Policy 7, no. 1 (2015): 7.] [5: Fell, “Scoring the Strengths and Weaknesses of Underage Drinking Laws in the United States,” 7. ]
The government is focusing majorly on stopping drinking among the underage through the strict minimum legal drinking age of 21 years instead of engaging and educating the teens. One of the best alternatives to solving this issue would be the introduction of awareness programs on the use of alcohol funded and run by the government.[footnoteRef:6] These programs can be rolled out in grade schools, high schools, as well as colleges to reach out to all teens. They should be conducted by experts and teachers and should focus on making teenagers aware of the health risks as well as other associated dangers and effects of excessive drinking. In addition, the programs can be integrated into the entire learning system, hence ensuring that the teens grow up knowing the effects of excessive drinking.[footnoteRef:7] It will enable them to make informed decisions on whether or not to start drinking as well as the quantity of alcohol that is not excessive if they decide to drink. [6:. “Readers Panel – Promoting Responsible Drinking,” Nursing Standard 28, no 22 (2014): 28. ] [7:. Ibid., 28.]
According to recent statistics in the US, accidents associated with drunk driving have decreased significantly. However, it is not only attributed to the high minimum legal drinking age but also to other factors. Such factors include education among drivers on the effects of driving while drunk which has greatly led to the reduction of road accidents in the country.[footnoteRef:8] However, compared to other countries whose minimum legal drinking age is 18 years, the US has a higher percentage of road traffic accidents and deaths due to drinking. In the United States, 31% of road accidents are caused by drunk driving as compared to France (29%), Great Britain (16%), Germany (9%), China (4%), and Israel (3%).[footnoteRef:9] These countries have a minimum legal drinking age of 18 years. Therefore, increasing the legal drinking age is not entirely the solution to the reduction of road traffic deaths. The government should rather focus on other influencing factors such as the creation of awareness. [8:. “Readers Panel – Promoting Responsible Drinking,” Nursing Standard 28, no 22 (2014): 28. ] [9:. Fell, “Scoring the Strengths and Weaknesses of Underage Drinking Laws in the United States,” 7. ]
Additionally, setting the minimum legal drinking age at 21 years in the US has encouraged many teens and underage persons to use all the possible means to get access to alcohol illegally. It is mostly done through the acquisition and use of false identification documents to buy alcohol or get access to places and outlets that sell it.[footnoteRef:10] It is a highly dangerous practice both to the teens themselves and the government since more fake identification documents get into circulation. It poses greater security challenges to the country as fake documents may be used to carry out criminal activities, illegal immigration, terrorist activities, and mugging among other potential security threats. Therefore, lowering the minimum legal drinking age to 18 years would be beneficial to both teens and the government as it would ensure that fewer or no fake identification documents are in circulation.[footnoteRef:11] It will positively contribute to enhancing a safe and secure nation and increasing respect for the country’s laws and regulations. [10:. Quintanilla, “Is Changing The Minimum Legal Drinking Age an Effective Policy Tool?.”] [11:. Quintanilla, “Is Changing The Minimum Legal Drinking Age an Effective Policy Tool?.” ]
A number of law enforcement agencies in the country are not fully focused on enforcing the minimum legal drinking age law. The reasons include the availability of limited resources, focus on more prioritized security matters, various legal and enforcement obstacles, and the perception that punishing teens is not enough. Much time, effort, and resources are used up in the process of enforcing this law because many underage are engaging in drinking daily.[footnoteRef:12] Once underage persons are caught by the police or other law enforcement agencies, many procedures and paperwork must be processed; hence, it has become tedious and burdensome to the agencies. Therefore, lowering the legal drinking age to 18 years would reduce the cases of arrests made due to illegal drinking in the country, thus saving resources and time for the enforcement agencies. The reason is that teenagers will practice responsible drinking within the confines of the law as well as in the required places. [12:. Ceren E. Yoruk, “The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Labor Market Outcomes of Young Adults: Evidence from Minimum Legal Drinking Age Laws,” The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy 15, no. 3 (2015), 15. ]
There is no evidence yet of an association statistically between the rates of homicide, suicide, or vandalism among teens with the minimum legal drinking age in the US. The claim that a lower legal drinking age will rapidly increase the cases of criminal activities or suicide among teens is therefore not substantial. Researchers have investigated that there is no existing relationship between the legal drinking age and crime or suicide.[footnoteRef:13] The government should thus lower the minimum legal drinking age from 21 to 18 years to allow teens to make their own choices. Teens that have attained the legal age of becoming adults at 18 years should not be denied the opportunity to enjoy themselves through drinking since other activities considered pleasurable among adults are allowed. [13:. Salagay, O. O., and K. V. Soshkina, “Medical Justification for Increasing the Minimum Legal Drinking Age,” Profilakticheskaya Meditsina 21, no. 5 (2018): 21. ]
Moreover, lowering the minimum legal drinking age in the US would greatly boost the country’s economy. Particularly, people from all over the world usually visit the country, and a large number of visitors comprise students between the ages of 18 to 20.[footnoteRef:14] It, therefore, means that they will not be allowed to spend their funds on alcohol, and thus some might not prefer to visit the US. In addition, music is teenagers’ hobby, and they usually love to hang out in places and events where music is played. Frequently, such places sell alcohol to boost their income. It means that much income is lost as a result of young people not being allowed into such events where alcohol is being sold and consumed. Thus, lowering the legal drinking age to 18 would boost the economy greatly. [14:. Yoruk, “The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Labor Market Outcomes of Young Adults,” 15.]
Young Americans do not usually report or seek medical attention for injuries related to alcohol and drinking activities since it is illegal to drink for anyone who is aged below 18 years. It instills fear into the young teens who get injured as they engage in activities related to excessive alcohol consumption, hence making them unable to report or even seek medical treatment.[footnoteRef:15] Therefore, lowering the minimum legal drinking age from 21 to 18 years in the United States would really encourage young people to seek medical treatment for any injuries acquired during drinking. The youth would also make timely reports to the authorities of any incidences that may result from their drinking activities without the fear of being arrested and persecuted since it will be legal for them to engage in drinking activities. Failure to report these incidents is a great concern to the government, hence the need for lower minimum legal drinking age in the United States. [15:. Salagay, “Medical Justification for Increasing the Minimum Legal Drinking Age,” 21.]
Quintanilla, Brachowicz N., and Judit V. Costello. “Is Changing The Minimum Legal Drinking Age an Effective Policy Tool?.” SSRN Electronic Journal (2018). doi 10.2139/ssrn.3277295.
Fell, James C., Sue Thomas, Michael Scherer, Deborah A. Fisher, and Eduardo Romano. “Scoring the Strengths and Weaknesses of Underage Drinking Laws in the United States.” World Medical & Health Policy 7, no. 1 (2015): 28-58. doi 10.1002/wmh3.132.
“Readers Panel – Promoting Responsible Drinking.” Nursing Standard 28, no 22 (2014): 28-29. doi: 10.7748/ns2014.01.28.22.28.s34.
Salagay, O. O., and K. V. Soshkina. “Medical Justification for Increasing the Minimum Legal Drinking Age.” Profilakticheskaya Meditsina 21, no. 5 (2018): 9. doi: 10.17116/profmed2018210519.
Yoruk, Ceren Ertan. “The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Labor Market Outcomes of Young Adults: Evidence from Minimum Legal Drinking Age Laws.” The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy 15, no. 3 (2015). doi: 10.1515/bejeap-2014-0104.