Young, wild and free: why legislators should lower the drinking age to 18

Lydia Montgomery

     If we are all honest with ourselves, we know someone or have ourselves, in an illegal setting, drunk alcohol. A 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey said that 68 percent of 12th graders said that they had tried alcohol. Unfortunately in America, the stigma behind alcohol is that it is bad and can only be a problem and worry in our lives.

     Although there are many common arguments as to why the drinking age should be lowered to 18, I would like to address the most important: the culture of alcohol. If the drinking age were lowered, we would be taking away the mystery of alcohol. I could suggest that we simply take other countries’ stances on the drinking age, but it would never be able to uphold in the United States because we have made drinking a social event. In many other countries, drinking is introduced at a young age as not a big a deal. Children and teens watch their parents treat alcohol with responsibility.

     You could say that drinking at a young age is a bad idea because the people who are treated as an adult in every other way are not responsible enough to drink alcohol, but what you are really saying is that they were never taught that alcohol is for more than getting wasted for one night. They have learned from parents, friends and society that if you drink when you’re young it’s to get drunk, and when you drink when you get older it’s because you had a stressful day.

     In an interview with Dwight B. Heath for an article written for CNN by Brandon Griggs, Heath, a professor at Brown University, said that he “favors a cultural model, common in countries like France or Italy, where parents serve small amounts of wine to their children at family meals.”

      In his opinion, alcohol in the home, and how it is treated,¬ is the greatest influence on a growing teen.

“Parents educate their kids about alcohol and rob drinking of its taboo allure, which can make rebellious teen-agers sneak off to basements and backwoods to binge drink far from adult supervision,” Heath revealed.

     He said that when alcohol is introduced early on in a child’s life, “Alcohol has no mystique. It’s no big deal. By contrast, where it’s banned until age 21, there’s something of the ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome.”

    If you don’t think that introducing drinking at a young age is a smart idea, then look at “USA Today’s” article by Karis Rogerson.

     “As a child who grew up in Italy, I was familiar with alcohol from a young age. From drinking communion wine at church to sipping champagne at New Year’s Eve and being able to buy alcohol by the summer after 10th grade, I was never in awe of it,” she comments.
     Rogerson goes on to talk about her experience when she came to America for college. When she got here, alcohol became illegal and could result in the loss of her license or even worse. And the build-up to her 21st birthday was a big deal. Her college, as many colleges do, had her sign a contract saying she wouldn’t drink while enrolled, but we all know where to get alcohol at college. As it got closer and closer to her birthday, she noticed the odd worry that surrounded her.

     “The thought that going out for a drink could result in my death — how have we, as a culture, come to a place where that is an acceptable and normal thing to worry about?” she says.

The most common argument is: if I can vote, fight in a war, be an independent adult, sit on a jury and drive a car, then I should be able to be trusted to drink responsibly. Arguably the biggest responsibility given to us is driving a car. In most other countries, not only is the drinking age 18, but the driving age is also 18. Here in the United States, we are trusted to drive on the road with both our lives and the drivers’ lives around us in our hands. Rather than be given the responsibility at the same time, we learn how to drive, and by the time we can legally drink, we are already overly comfortable with driving.
     One could argue that students our age are not ready for the responsibility, but they are being sent to college in an environment filled with drinking. Unfortunately, we are taught that if you are below the drinking age, the only way to drink is to binge drink.
     Mary Kate Cray wrote an article in the “US News” addressing this issue. The article mentioned Dartmouth College’s president’s outrages and experiences on his college campus: “From sexual assaults on campus … to a culture where dangerous drinking has become the rule and not the exception … to a general disregard for human dignity as exemplified by hazing, parties with racist and sexist undertones, disgusting and sometimes threatening insults hurled on the Internet … to a social scene that is too often at odds with the practices of inclusion that students are right to expect on a college campus in 2014.”
      Yes, people get hurt and die because of others’ stupidity when it comes to drinking, but if we change the culture and attitude about alcohol, then we will be able to change how alcohol is treated. The stigma that alcohol is bad is not just something we are taught, but it is also something that our parents and their parents are taught. We have built up a culture that teaches the extremes of alcohol rather than drinking responsibly. The real issue isn’t about age , it’s about culture.


2015-05-19 08:11:50