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Lowering the Minimum Legal Drinking Age

What are your thoughts? Should we lower, raise, or keep the MLDA the way it is? (Photograph by Rachel Etwaru)

What are your thoughts? Should we lower, raise, or keep the MLDA the way it is? (Photograph by Rachel Etwaru)

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In 1984, President Ronald Reagan passed the National Minimum Drinking Act that prohibited people under the age of 21 from consuming alcohol. States then had to pass this law or they would have lost 10% of their federal highway funding. Since then, it has been a constant debate about whether we should lower or raise the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) in the United States.

“I think that the age should be lowered from 21 to 18 because people are able to fight in wars but cannot have a drink. Also, the considered ‘adult’ age is 18, and, at 18, I feel like they would be responsible enough to handle and know how much alcohol they can drink,” says sophomore Maggie Rossello.

Some argue that this minimum drinking age is too high, and that its illegality makes it taboo and increases underage drinking. They argue that people at the age of 18 are more than capable of making responsible and mature decisions regarding drinking. They also point out that, at the age of 18, young adults have the ability to vote, smoke cigarettes, serve on juries, get married, sign contracts, be prosecuted as adults, and join the military. If 18-year-olds are able to do all of these important things, then they should also be allowed to drink.

“I think our current minimum drinking age is dumb. There’s just a bad stigma about drinking with prohibition. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We should lower it to the age of 18,” says senior Chris Calamia.

Others think the current MLDA is appropriate. They argue that the MLDA does not need to change or should be raised. They believe that lowering the MLDA would cause more accidents, underage drinking, binge drinking, and the usage of drugs. Lowering the drinking age also makes alcohol more accessible to middle schoolers and high schoolers. It is arguable that people are more mature at the age of 21 than the age of 18.

“I believe that the legal drinking age should not be lowered. It should either stay at the same age or be raised to around 25,” says junior Tristan Taylor.

Our current MLDA is something that is not always followed, though it is one of the most important laws. There are many factors that go into deciding what the minimum drinking age is: accidents, brain development, death tolls, the opinions of citizens, etc. Another issue to address is whether or not lowering the MLDA will push people to become more mature.

“Lowering the drinking age will result in more alcohol abuse and mental impedance, which will lead to limitations in the judgment of people and will ultimately lead to more accidents. Lowering the drinking age will have the surface effects of better maturity, but the underlying effects will show the opposite, with more people acting inappropriately and more unintelligent acts being committed,” says junior Chad Lowe.

There is also the matter about other countries and their MLDA. For example, the United Kingdom has a MLDA of 18, while in Italy it is 16. Indonesia has an MLDA of 21, while Jamaica does not have a MLDA. The question is do we compare ourselves to other countries to choose our MLDA.

“I think that lowering the drinking age would be beneficial, not because I’m a teenager who wants to drink, but because it would take away from the thrill. Teens want to drink not because of the actual drink, but because of the risk of breaking the rules. For example, in Germany, the drinking age is 16. My friend from Germany said that kids there were less likely to drink and do stupid things because it was not as cool because you were able to do it,” says sophomore Mallory Smith.

Though there is a MLDA of 21, there are some exceptions. There are exceptions for religious purposes, government work purposes, and educational purposes. There are also exceptions for those that have reported medical need due to underage drinking. This means if an underage drinker calls 911 to report a medical emergency for another underage drinker, the caller and the person receiving help will not be penalized for drinking. There are even states that allow underage drinking on alcohol-drinking premises with parental consent. Some states even allow you to drink in a private area with parental consent, and some allow you to drink in private places without parental consent.

“It is set to where you are not too young to be able to drink and to where you are old enough to be responsible for your own actions. As long as their parents make them drink safe, it will allow them to be mature with drinking earlier [on in their lives]. I know people whose parents who allow them to drink, but only little increments, at home. I think this will allow them to be more mature and responsible [when] drinking especially when they go [to] college,” says sophomore Riley Brown.

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Lowering the Minimum Legal Drinking Age