Editorial: The legal drinking age is too high

The stupidity of a few should not take away the opportunity of a majority (H. Margaret Slye / Lariat)

Staff writers


All over the world, legal drinking ages vary from 14 to 16. 

In the United States, the right to drink an alcoholic beverage is restricted until we reach age 21. This holds true even if we are legally allowed to vote and join the military.

We believe that the drinking age should be lowered.

“In Switzerland, drinking is incorporated into the family life,” Swiss citizen and former Saddleback Student Pascal Stäheli, 22, said. “We are exposed to alcohol earlier, and are not advised to not drink, rather taught how to drink in moderation.”

Stäheli explained that the way someone is raised defines how they will behave around alcohol. It is because of this that he believes that the maturity level in Switzerland is higher compared to the U.S..

The 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was added in 1920, after which the making, selling, possessing, and consumption of alcohol became absolutely illegal. After 13 years of increased criminal rates and a fight for power over alcohol between the government and underground crime groups, Prohibition came to an end in December of 1933. As a result, the drinking age fluctuated from state to state for nearly five decades. 

According to Moms Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), on July 17, 1984 President Ronald Regan passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. This act legally made the federal drinking age 21, an act that has significantly separated the U.S. from other countries.

In the U.S., when someone turns 21, it is a celebrated event. It is a day in which one can legally do what many of them have illegally participated in for years, drink.

Because the government has put a high restriction on the drinking age, our culture has made drinking to be more of a social rebellion rather than a cultural tradition. Due to this, many teens and young adults think it is cool to drink to get drunk rather than to drink to enjoy.  

“I feel like people would learn to be more responsible earlier if it was lowered. Sure there will be idiots. But there are always idiots,”  Saddleback College student Alyssa Riney, 19, Communications, said.

By repealing the National Drinking Age Act of 1984, America’s issue of reckless underage drinking could greatly decrease.

By lowering the drinking age, young teens and adults can be taught how to consume in moderation like European cultures. It would be more common for drinking to take place in regulated environments such as bars and restaurants rather than unsupervised houses and fraternity parties which often result in irresponsible binge drinking and blackouts.

Many argue that anyone under the age of 21 is too immature to participate in drinking. We think otherwise.

“An age does not define maturity,” Dylan Gala, 21, Undecided, said.  “I know 50 year olds that shouldn’t be allowed to drink, and 18 year olds who could drink responsibly.”

It is not an individual’s age that determines their maturity level, but their upbringing that does. European cultures have continually proven this.

We believe that if someone is mature enough to vote and enlist in the military, one should be given the right to at least enjoy a beer.     

According to an article by Psychology Today, in the early 19th century, members of the military could consume alcohol on base, regardless of the legal drinking age. Many military bases had bars and clubs accessible to the soldiers where they were able to drink. 

“Overseas, as long as you’re not on base and underage you can drink all you want,” U.S. Air Force and Saddleback alumnus Gabe Reza said. 

He went on to say that there is line between federal and military law.

If you are mature and old enough to enlist to fight for our country, without a doubt you should be able to enjoy a drink in this country. Key word: enjoy.

Those who don’t have the opportunity to travel overseas and are not able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage usually tend to find a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy that can provide fake identification, and having a fake I.D. puts underage drinkers at risk of getting into serious trouble.

It’s like restrictive parenting: Tell a teenage girl that she can’t date that older guy with the motorcycle and tattoos and it will only make doing just that more appealing. If the U.S. did not restrict alcohol consumption, young people would not feel to need to rebel. Just like they did during prohibition, people will find a way to go about getting what they want.

If alcohol was introduced at a younger age and within the American culture, teens and young adults would be taught how to drink in moderation within regulated environments. An increase in the experience of consuming alcohol in moderation from a younger age could greatly decrease the number of irresponsible underage drinkers.

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