Although alcohol has been around for quite some time, it has recently begun to pose a problem in the past few decades, specifically in America. Terrible alcohol related incidences occur every day in America and can be so easily avoided if the proper laws and information are applied. Alcohol consumption, especially in the case of underage drinking, is one of the most crippling problems in the United States. Not only does it give the U. S. a bad image, but it can forever ruin lives.
The drinking age, with proper attention and regulations, should be lowered to eighteen because it would drastically decrease the number of alcohol related issues in America. Countries, such as those in Europe, have far different laws pertaining to alcohol consumption than those of America. Some of these countries’ minimum legal drinking ages, or MLDAs, are as low as sixteen. Yet even then, there are countries in the same area who will allow anyone who is taller than the bar counter to enter the tavern and purchase drinks.
Although these laws may seem ridiculous to many Americans, especially parents with teenage children, they seem to be doing fairly well. European teenagers’ familiarity with alcohol use, dictated by a culture of ‘Moderate, supervised drinking within families’ and lower legal drinking ages, is an increasingly attractive model for American parents (Colville “Underage”). If European teenagers are doing just fine, then why are American teenagers allegedly ruining futures and losing lives?
America’s current MLDA is twenty one years of age and has majorly been that way since the mid 1900’s. The current drinking age in the United States is higher than in Canada, Mexico, and most western European countries whose drinking ages are primarily 18. As for the specifics of the MLDA, provided by Total DUI, anyone under the age of twenty one who is found with blood alcohol content higher than . 01% is technically breaking the law. As already mentioned, these laws have been in place for over half a century; however, there have been slight, brief changes in the past.
Minton informs that Louisiana briefly lowered its age limit back to 18 in 1996, after the state Supreme Court ruled that the 21 limit was a form of discrimination, but the court reversed that decision a few months later. Interestingly enough, it is surprising that the Supreme Court could make such a crucial decision, and then shortly after, recall a very valid point. Discrimination was undeniably the issue, and should not have been reversed, let alone even reconsidered. The MLDA in America is clearly a failing system; the number one question being why.
Ashton, from BBC News, may be able to help answer that. He said, “Teenagers are drinking in risky circumstance. They go to parks, open spaces, or out on the street. They get drunk and have unprotected sex. ” This is a very valid point, and is one of the main reasons the MLDA is not working. Children are brought up with the understanding that alcohol is bad, and in a sense, taboo-like. While French or Italian children learn to think of alcohol as part of a meal, American teens learn to drink in the unmonitored environment of a basement or the backwoods with their friends.
If American parents did as most French or Italian parents do and introduced alcohol to their teenage children as a family/social practice, then alcohol related issues would surely decrease. Alcohol related statistics such as addictions and fatalities in European countries are astoundingly low when considering how young their MLDAs are. In Germany, for example, where the drinking age is sixteen, alcohol related fatalities decreased by 57 percent between 1975 and 1990 (Minton).
Another interesting point brought up by Colville “Binge Drinking” is how the Washington post observed in 2004 that Europe has relatively few incidents of teens’ driving drunk despite low drinking ages. As for America, this is almost the complete opposite and should be taken into strong consideration when discussing the lowering of its MLDA. America’s statistics are not as favorable as some of the other countries’ statistics previously mentioned. For example, Carpenter found results from 006-2007 National Health Interview Survey concluding that adults ages 18-25 report that on average, in the previous year, they drank on 36 days and typically consumed 5. 1 drinks on the days they drank. If consumed in a single sitting, five drinks meets the clinical definition of “binge” or “heavy episodic” drinking. To build off of that information, Carpenter also provides that five drinks for a 160-pound man with a limited time between drinks leads to a blood alcohol concentration for about . 2 percent and results in moderate to severe impairments in coordination, concentration reflexes, reaction time, depth perception, and peripheral vision. To put things simply, America clearly has not just an underage drinking problem nationally, but a drinking problem among all ages in general. Another statistic to support the sad truth of how alcohol abuse has strongly impaired young adults is provided by Colville “Binge Drinking” once again.
Colville states, “Statistics from the Center for Disease Control include the finding that around ‘90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 years in the United States is in the form of binge drinks. ’” To reiterate, America’s MLDA and alcohol’s introduction into young lives is clearly very weak and inefficient in comparison to that of European countries. Now that it has clearly been established that America’s laws and ways of handling delicate matters are not the most effective systems, the next question is how to fix the problem.
First of all, lowering the MLDA is the easiest and most obvious step in solving America’s alcohol problem. The next steps, and by far the most difficult, are learning how to introduce alcohol into young adults’ lives and then acting upon it. Like mentioned above, the taboo label that is placed on drinking alcohol needs to be the first to go. Teenagers need to have their first sip of mom’s wine or taste of dad’s beer before they go to an unsupervised party and do it to a dangerous extent. Instead, they are making inappropriate decisions and are then getting punished for it.
The last thing that young adults trying alcohol for the first time need in the back of their minds is that alcohol is something mysterious and worth trying. It would be more effective to spend money on educating youth about alcohol than to spend it on enforcement on drinking laws for 18- to 20-year-olds (Pros). There are several expansive, national groups that are in full support of lowering the MLDA and changing the stereotypical views of alcohol. For example, a very popular group known as Choose Responsibility wants to allow 18-20 year olds to purchase, possess and consume alcoholic beverages.
One of their central arguments is that the U. S. MLDA policy results in more dangerous drinking than would occur if the legal drinking age were lower (Carpenter). It is no secret that many young people want what they cannot have. However, as soon as they are given what they have wanted so terribly, and receive the impression that it is a normal, family “event”, the excitement and want almost entirely dissipates. The most important thing to do is to treat the young adults just as they should be treated; as adults.
Once the MLDA has been lowered to eighteen, and a large enough number of American parents understand what needs to be done, the next step is action. Parents need to do everything possible to remove that taboo that has been lingering over alcohol for decades. Colville “Binge Drinking” found that The Amethyst Initiative (a national group comprised of college professors in favor of lowering the drinking age) is following on the heels of a primarily European trend of parents drinking with their children in order to remove alcohol’s mystique.
Professor Ashton, as reported by BBC News, stated, “We also have to find ways of setting realistic ambitions, such as not drinking every night of the week or drinking with food, rather than just to get drunk. ” As all of these are very valid points, there also needs to be action in other important places in a young adult’s life. A popular and definitely influential place would be college. McCardell believes that colleges should be given the chance to educate students in the appropriate use of alcohol as well as the proper time and place.
America has a drinking problem, and its teenagers are being hit the hardest. The statistics do not lie; the U. S. is obviously doing something wrong and, if left unchecked, will surely fall behind the rest of the world. The easiest way to solve America’s underage drinking problem is not by enforcing the law. The MLDA has to examined and reconsidered, the taboo of drinking needs to be eliminated, and the lives being ruined and lost will be save. Lower the MLDA, be proactive, use knowledge and ready information, and save America from its horrible addiction.