Drinking age: a double-edged sword

Jessica Seftel

Come celebrate your 18th birthday with a beer! Many of us have done just that, while the rest avoid trouble and abide by the “above 21 years old” law.

It’s a complicated situation. Our elders tell us not to drink, and then remind us that if we do, to be responsible about it. For those who feel the drinking age should be lowered to 18, you are not alone.

This past summer, college presidents from over 100 universities across the country such as Dartmouth, Duke, and Syracuse, came together and called upon lawmakers about considering the age limit laws for alcohol. From a group statement, it was said that today’s regulations make it a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge drinking.”

They could be right, but there is a lot more to it. Believing that binge drinking is a direct result from age restrictions is highly controversial.

Opponents of the idea point to several statistics and organizations to make their point.

Members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving say that lowering the age would lead to more fatalities on the road. The Centers for Disease Control also conducted a study and concluded that “Adolescent’s’ brains are still developing past the age of 18 and significant alcohol use can interfere in that process.”

On the other side of this, the argument is that the current laws push drinking into hiding, heightening its risk, and preventing us from discussing the issue of responsibility.

Professor Ruth C. Engs of Indiana University made a point by saying, “As a nation, we have tried prohibition legislation twice in the past for controlling irresponsible drinking problems. Today we are repeating history and making the same mistakes that occurred in the past. Prohibition did not work then and prohibition for young people under the age of 21 is not working now.”

As with alcohol other substances, such as caffeine and sleeping pills that many use, should not be treated as forbidden fruit.It is unfair to punish those underage who can, by law, marry, serve in the military, posses firearms, vote, and enter into legally binding contracts.

If we let an 18-year-old be deployed to Iraq with a machine gun, can he or she not be trusted when they return home with an alcoholic beverage?

The solution that seems to make the most sense is having the legal age for drinking be a state issue, as it was before. The National Minimum Drinking Age Law passed in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.

Each state varies in underage drinking and driving statistics, so giving them the ultimate say with this law will lead to improvements and more control. We all become adults when we realize that we have a right not only to be right, but also to be wrong.