Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix
Ethan Trex
Why is the Drinking Age 21?
by Ethan Trex - August 26, 2008 - 12:41 AM

age-21.jpgPresidents of some of the country’s biggest colleges and universities have come out in support of the Amethyst Initiative, which is pushing a proposal to reconsider the national drinking age of 21. The group contends that the current policy hasn’t actually deterred alcohol abuse among college-age students; instead, it’s forced these young people to imbibe in a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking,” which might sound familiar to, oh, just about anyone who attended college, has seen a college-themed movie, or has heard the word “college.”

So if this policy might not be the best way to deter alcohol abuse, how did we end up with a drinking age of 21 in the first place?

In short, we ended up with a national minimum age of 21 because of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. This law basically told states that they had to enact a minimum drinking age of 21 or lose up to ten percent of their federal highway funding. Since that’s serious coin, the states jumped into line fairly quickly. Interestingly, this law doesn’t prohibit drinking per se; it merely cajoles states to outlaw purchase and public possession by people under 21. Exceptions include possession (and presumably drinking) for religious practices, while in the company of parents, spouses, or guardians who are over 21, medical uses, and during the course of legal employment.

That answers the legal question of why the drinking age is 21, but what was the underlying logic of the original policy?
Did lawmakers just pick 21 out of a hat because they wanted college seniors to learn the nuances of bar culture before graduation? Not quite. The concept that a person becomes a full adult at age 21 dates back centuries in English common law; 21 was the age at which a person could, among other things, vote and become a knight. Since a person was an official adult at age 21, it seemed to make sense that they could drink then, too.

Who was responsible for lowering the drinking age to 18 for part of the 20th century, though?
Believe it or not, Franklin Roosevelt helped prompt the change in a rather circuitous fashion. FDR approved lowering the minimum age for the military draft from 21 to 18 during World War II. When the Vietnam-era draft rolled around, though, people were understandably a bit peeved that 18-year-old men were mature enough to fight, but not old enough to vote. Thus, in 1971 the states ratified the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. Legislators started applying the same logic to drinking. The drinking age, which the 21st Amendment made the responsibility of individual states, started dropping around the country.

Critics of the change decried rises in alcohol-related traffic fatalities among 18-20 year-old drivers in areas where the drinking age had been lowered. Indeed, one result of leaving states in charge of their own age was the creation of “blood borders” between states that allowed 18-year-olds to drink and those that didn’t. Teenagers from the more restrictive state would drive into the one where they could buy booze, drink, and then drive home, which created a perfect storm for traffic fatalities. Even if teens weren’t any more predisposed than older adults to drive after they’d been drinking, all of this state-hopping meant that those who did drive drunk had to drive greater distances to get home than their older brethren, who could just slip down the block for a beer or six. More miles logged in a car meant more opportunities for a drunken accident.

Who led the back-to-21 movement?
MADD.jpgOrganizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving began agitating for a uniform national drinking age of 21 to help eliminate these blood borders and keep alcohol out of the hands of supposedly less-mature 18-year-olds. As a result, President Reagan signed the aforementioned National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. MADD’s “Why 21?” website touts a National Traffic Highway Administration finding that the raised drinking age policy saves around 900 lives a year. Traffic reports show a 62% decrease in alcohol fatalities among teen drivers since 1982. Raw numbers show that drunk driving fatalities have definitely dropped since the early 1980s; despite an 88% increase in the number of miles driven, 2007 saw over 8,000 fewer total alcohol-related traffic fatalities than 1982.

Teasing out the underlying cause of this reduction in total fatalities is no mean feat, though. Non-alcohol traffic fatalities have also declined relative to the number of miles driven over the same time period, which could be attributed to any number of causes, including increased seat belt usage, the widespread use of airbags, and other safety improvements to cars and roads. Moreover, drinking and driving for the whole population might be down as the result of increased education on its consequences, harsher penalties, improved enforcement, or increased stigmatization of drunk driving.

The college presidents who support the Amethyst Initiative admit that drunk driving is a serious problem, but they point out that it’s not the only potential pitfall for young drinkers. They contend that by lowering the drinking age, colleges would be able to bring booze out into the open and educate students on responsible consumption. Such education might help curb alcohol poisoning, drunken injuries, drinking-fueled violence, and alcoholism on campuses.

Interesting bit of trivia: the group takes its name from the character Amethyst in Greek mythology. She ran afoul of a drunken Dionysus, who had her turned into white stone. When the god discovered what he’d done, he poured wine on the stone, turning it into the purple rock we know as amethyst. Ancient Greeks wore the mineral as a form of protection from drunkenness.

So is there any place in the United States an 18-year-old can escape the uniform 21-year-old drinking age?
For a while, Louisiana was a safe haven for thirsty teens. To comply with the letter of the national drinking age law, the state passed a law that made it illegal to buy alcohol if you were under 21. However, the law had a pretty large loophole built in: it wasn’t illegal to sell alcohol to people under 21, a trick that severely hampered the enforcement of the drinking age. The state closed this exception in 1995, though. For the truly creative, the National Institutes of Health note that since Indian reservations are domestic sovereigns they don’t fall under the existing federal drinking laws. Don’t start researching your own tribal history just yet, though; according to the NIH over 200 tribes have passed their own laws against underage drinking.

To leave a comment, click here.

Send this Post » Suggest a Topic/Link »
Comments (84)
  1. I’m not sure what their point is, or why they’re so concerned that the drinking age “forced” these young people to imbibe in a “culture of dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking,”.

    Really?? “Forced”?? I had no idea that young people were being forced to drink alcohol. It’s shocking. First their parents force them to eat their vegetables and now this!

    The fact that they engage in binge drinking is pretty much proof that they cant make responsible decisions when it comes to alcohol. Thes college presidents need to take a course in common sense.

  2. So…. The college administrators would prefer that under 21-year-olds do their binge drinking off campus, then die on their way back?

    There’s nothing stopping them from teaching their students the hazards of alcohol abuse _now_. The fact that alcohol use by minors is illegal does not mean you can’t talk about it. In fact, what better time to advise them of what kind of trouble they can get into than before they get into it?

  3. Not that I am supporting changing the drinking age to 18, but we must look at the fact that if our sons and daughters are responsible enough to vote for the leaders of our country and they can fight and die for our country in war, then they should obviously be responsible enough to purchase alcohol.

  4. When I was in the Navy at Great Lakes in the mid-1980s, even though Illinois state law said you had to be 21, you were allowed to drink on base at the age of 19 (at least at the EM Club). I doubt that’s still the case.

  5. Here in the great state of Michigan it is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to posses, use or otherwise consume acohol.

    Also, and I am not too sure if it still is, but while stationed breifly at Camp Pendleton, CA in the early 90’s. Any active military member between 18 and 21 could purchase and consume beer only at enlisted ‘clubs’. You could not however, buy it at the package store, and you could not purchase so called hard liquer. I was always led to beleive that this was due to the ownership of the actual land the base was on. Most bases in the continuous 48 states are on leased land. Camp Pendleton is the only federally owned base.

  6. I just got out of the Air Force about a year ago and the rules have changed now, you can’t buy alcohol anywhere on base until you’re of age. My first assignment was in Japan where the drinking age is 20, so the AF allowed us to drink at that age as well. For anyone over there under the age of 20 though, none of the Japanese carded Americans (they just wanted our money), so you could drink off base all you wanted. You just had to be careful gettting back on base… sometimes they did mandatory breathalizers (sp?).

  7. As an RA at a college campus, I can tell you that there is no way that underage drinking is going to stop. The only way to make it safer it to educate students on safe drinking practices, encouraging moderation over binging. This would be a hell of a lot easier if there could be adults present (or any kind of responsible supervision). However, the drinking age makes the act clandestine, and therefore students who wish to drink are forced to do so in secrecy.

    Also, studies have shown that the vast majority of underage drinkers do so in moderation, but perceive that others do not. So basically, peoples preconceived notions that their friends drink to excess encourages them to do the same.

    Don’t patronize all teenagers and make it seem like we’re all incapable of making smart decisions. Prejudices like that only encourage dangerous behavior.

  8. Not that I advocate for changing the drinking age, but I believe that if our sons and daughters are old and “responsible” enough to serve our country in the military and to be able to vote for our leaders, they should be responsible for purchasing alcohol.

  9. “This law basically told states that they had to enact a minimum drinking age of 21 or lose up to ten percent of their federal highway funding.”

    This is the part that bugs me (but I also believe in more power for the states and less for the feds). Either make a national law or let the states decide, don’t force them and then pretend it’s a federal law.

  10. Just to be a bit clearer–I don’t think people pretend it’s a a federal law (poor choice of words there). Just that the fact that many states were orginally opposed is usally left out.

  11. I think its fair to say the 21 year old drinking age has given rise to some pretty stupid practices that wouldn’t necessarily happen if 18-20 year olds could openly and legally drink. “Pre-gaming” is right on the top of that list for me. Don’t know about other college campuses, but at the University of Delaware underage students like to get completely and utterly trashed before they start going to parties. I don’t know if its to limit the risk of being caught with a beer when the party gets broken up by the cops for a noise violation or what. I just know I’ve wanted to smack some sense into every intern in this office who has decided to give me a play-by-play of their pre-gaming activities.

  12. Part of the arguement is that it is just as illegial to drink one beer as a case if you are underage. So underage drinkers who do break the law figure they might as well drink the whole case.

    So if the drinking age is lower, the university presidents believe a large portion of the current underage binge drinks would choice to go to a bar with friends, have a beer or two and then call it a night.

  13. My parents speak wistfully of the days growing up in PA (21 state) but driving to NJ (18 state). If nothing else there is at least a benefit to uniformity.

    I wonder if those commenting recall their own college days? Even if you weren’t the one doing the drinking, you had to know people that were. I’m amazed at how easily we tend to forget what it was like for us at (insert age). To be fair I’m 28 so not all that far out of the loop, as well as have 4 brothers all under the age of 14, so it is a bit easier to stay connected.

    I just see a pattern of “When I was your age” and “These darn kids today” starting to develop. Never beneficial.

  14. An older drinking age does not limit binge drinking. I know plenty of 26, 30 even 40 year olds that will occasionally go out and get blind-drunk; these people have careers and apartments, are obviously mature and educated…they just want to have fun.

    Even if a person waits until they are legal drinking age, if they are the sort of person who wants to “get wasted” they will. Regardless of whether they are 16, 19 or 21 years old, they can all make the same choices (though I do give you that an older person may have learnt his limit by then…after a few years of drinking).

    As for drinking and driving – I was under the impression that more often than not, impaired drivers aren’t teenagers, but rather are adults who “know their limit” or “only had a couple” and figure they are okay to drive. Now that I’m an adult, I find that I’m taking car keys away much MUCH more often than when I was a teenager. To be fair, however, I haven’t researched much in to that, aside from a few articles here and there.

    In Canada the drinking age is 18 or 19 (depending on the province) and I really don’t think it did any harm. If anything, by the age of 21 you’ve got your ‘stupid drinking days’ out of the way and are more likely to be okay with having one beer at dinner, rather than eight. Universities have always been places to drink; whether someone is 19 or 21 when they crack a beer open, they could - and often will - still drink irresponsibly.

  15. Certainly, among the people I know, drinking lost a bit of its status once you became legal. I don’t know if you got it out of your system or if it stopped being seen as something rebellious, but it was a pretty consistant pattern. When you didn’t have to sneak around, it wasn’t as fun.

  16. Alcohol abuse will continue to be a problem until it’s demystified. When people are allowed to do something without restrictions, then people will accept it and it will stop being a problem.
    In Europe, people are allowed to drink at vertually any age. This effectively demystifies it for younger folks. They don’t sneek out for drinks and they tend not to abuse it because it’s accepted behavior.
    I think that once the United States removes restrictions on alcohol, then we’ll see a dramatic decrease in alcohol related incidents involving younger people.

  17. I went to college in the early ’90s in Pensacola, about a 3 hour drive from New Orleans. There, it was lax regarding drinking by those under 21, so we used to make the trek over there all the time to drink. Then in 1995, they got tough, but by then my friends and I were of age and we didn’t care.

  18. Why not just make the drinking age 19, as it is here in Canada? Keep the alcohol out of the hands of high schoolers, but keep that line at a respectable, responsible level.

  19. All I know is, I don’t want to be at a bar serving or hanging out with a bunch of 18 year olds. It sounds like the worst time in the world.

  20. I am all for lowering the drinking age, but at the same time, there needs to be an investigation into some state’s legal limit for being considered drunk. In a lot of states it’s so low that drinking ONE BEER will make you over the limit. So perhaps teens are getting caught in this way and being termined as “abusing alcohol” or “intoxicated”. It’s kind of a double standard.

  21. I studied abroad in Sicily and it was QUITE obvious who the Americans were and who the Europeans were. The Americans were falling down drunk at the end of the night, while the Europeans were controlled. We would see middle-school aged kids gather at bars and have drinks- some had pop, some had actual drinks- and they wouldn’t get wasted or even drunk. It’s a cultural thing more than a 3 year gap. If Americans were immersed with appreciation of fine wine, great beer, etc, at an early age, they’d never do beer bongs full of natty lite.

    Oh and re: pregaming, Stacey- I think it’s a money thing as well as a not getting caught thing. You can still get in trouble for being drunk publicly, so it’s not so much not getting caught with a beer in hand. However, a case of cheap beer or a bottle of wine from the gas station, while not so tasty, are much cheaper than the beers and drinks available behind the bar.

  22. When the presidents refer to “Clandestine” they don’t just mean the act of drinking. They are also referring to the places and manner in which underage students are getting drunk, and dealing with being drunk. Underage drunks are less likely to use campus transportation, or go to the health center if they drank too much. They are also more likely to drink in a private setting(i.e. unsupervised), rather than a place like a bar, which has bartenders and bouncers watching. It is much easier for someone to drink responsibly when they have the same options available to them as other “responsible” adults.

  23. The issue isn’t so much of an age but the culture in the US. Here it considered acceptable to get totally wasted. Last week at a team meeting my co-workers who were about 24-27 in age, were so drunk they were slurring their words, dropping drinks on the floor, and almost causing a fight. They thought it was fun. If 21 is consdered an age where people are “mature” then they should meet some of my co-workers.

    In Europe, people drink at 18 but they just have one or two drinks, they are not drunk. When I was in San Sebastian, Spain all the drunk/intoxicated people were tourists from the US. It is a culture issue than so much of an age issue.

  24. Hmm.. I always thought it was 21 because that was the age at which one is fully developed (when the skull fuses completely), hence being an adult. Interesting. Any idea why 21 was chosen for knighthood & voting purposes??

    As for the whole 21-18-21 mess, when the drinking age was lowered many more 16-year-olds were getting their hands on liquor, since many of them had 18-year-old friends, as a 2 year gap is much less than a 5 year gap. Of course, high schoolers still find a way to get their hands on booze(heck, some parents provide it!) but underage drinking incidents went way down when the drinking age was changed back to 21 (according to MADD, anyway).

    Finally, I don’t buy that whole European “let-them-drink-whenever” argument. All the European kids I knew in college drank just as much as, if not more than those who were raised in the states. For them, drinking was acceptable at all times and occassions but they still had the urge to binge. This just led to being drunk every day rather than just on the weekends and times of showing up drunk or hungover to class.

    Interesting etymology tidbit: Orignally, “drunk” was meant as an understatement to suggest that one had only had 1 drink and therefore was not inebriated.

  25. I meant to add: perhaps, due to the underage business, they should only sell to those 21+, but not prosecute anyone 18+ who is caught in possession of alcohol?

    Oh, and RI state law is such that anyone under 21 who has any alcohol in their system (.08 is the legal limit, but under 21 is .00) while operating a vehicle gets slapped with possession, ingestion, and transportation of alcohol as well as a DUI. (source: RI state trooper speaking at a SADD event)
    (transportation due to it being in your stomach.. seems a little unfair??)

  26. Maybe instead of lowering the drinking age to 18, we should raise the minimum age for military service and voting back to 21? Our society is consistently and gradually increasing the age at which people are expected to act like adults, not lowering it.

    A 21 year old in 17th century England probably had a couple kids already, and could only be expected to live another 40 years or so. If anything, we ought to be talking about raising the drinking and voting ages to 25 or 30.

  27. I agree with Martin above, make it 19 so the high school kids don’t come to school drunk or buy for the 16 year olds.

    From my experiences in college, binging happens because you have very limited access to alcohol and you have to drink it in private. That means go to a party where they serve it, or down the bottle of Jack before you get caught with it.

    After turning 21 we still drank, but there was a lot more going out for a few beers and a lot less getting hammered.

  28. As for the ‘they can go to war at 18, but can’t drink until 21′ arguement, I say let anyone with a military ID drink at 18.

  29. I grew up in Germany. And i would never say Europeans do not binge. but i also would say that they are smarter about it. The fact that it is not against the law means they would call an ambulance if someone imbibed enough alcohol to be fatal. I also work on an ambulance and have seen many kids either dropped off at the parents, on a street in the city, or in front of a fire station. because their friends dont want to get in trouble.

    Kids are going to drink and the Dare programs dont work because they make it confusing saying its bad and pointing out all the harmful effects but then the kid sees his dad or mom at the family reunion quaffing beers with his or her crabs. I say we educate out kids and way not have them start drinking before they leave the house. you wouldn’t send them to college and have their friends teach them to drive would you?

  30. Liquor is a toxic garbage that a half-man, half-monkey “invented” in a cave some 6,000-dd years ago. Now it helps spawn 75% of the mayhem in society today. You’d figure that some scientist would figure out some new form of booze that wouldn’t make you crash your car, punch out your wife, quit your job, etc. etc…but then the paycheque addicted cops and politicians and lawyers and insurance companies and doctors and liquor companies wouldn’t like that at all, they’d call it DOPE, and don’t allow us to be happy.

  31. honestly, im just turning 18. the fact that the drinking age has not once stopped me from drinking since i was 15. do i binge? never. have a drink or two when im at a party? of course. having the drinking age at 21 is more of an inconvience than anything.

    it will never ever stop kids from purchasing alcohol, and all it encourages is reckless behavior. since they have to regardless find someone, or pay someone to buy them alcohol, never will underage kids buy just one six pack, or twelve pack, it encourages them to binge and buy bottles of alcohol and dozens of beers.

    you want to recruit me into the military at 18, want me to vote, my patriotic duty..but i cant drink. i can smoke, which is toxic and kills hundreds of thousands of people a year, but god forbid i drink. people need to wake up.

    yes people will die from drunk driving, its inevitable, be it w/ or w/o the drinking age. but more people will die from smoking for sure. innocent people at that, more from second hand smoke, then alcohol consumption, reckless driving, poisoning.

    sorry priorities are not in line. tobacco makes the government billions in taxes, and that makes death ok? but drinking is not. alright. its always nice to see what our country is made up on. dishonest, underhand tactics, never caring bout the little people.

  32. I am glad the drinking age is 21 and hope it stays there. These dumb kids of today are too ignorant as it is.


  33. If you ask me…
    18 should be the age. ( and 18 should be the age for driving as well )

    Free Web Powered Digital Signage:

  34. If you’re 18 and from the US, you can go without a passport to Puerto Rico and drink to your heart’s content.

  35. I turn 21 in just over a month, so changing this wouldn’t effect me. I have been binge drinking since the end of sophomore year of high school and the main reason I have always done it, is simply because it’s fun, not because it’s “cool”, illegal, or dangerous. I’m aware is extremely harmful for my body and I’ll probably pay the price down the line, but I simply think the amount of fun I’ve had is worth it.

    That said, why can’t the drinking age be 19? Anyone can get alcohol at college so what’s the point of anything higher. 18 provides that same easy access for anyone in in HS, meaning potentially a 14 year old freshman could get blind drunk fairly easy. Personally, I think that’s too young based on both physical and mental maturity.

  36. Lol. This suggests clearly that if you are not 21:
    1. you can drink at work
    2. once you are able to drink and get completely booze retarded, you may vote for the drunken politicians who hope you are too pissed to notice they are utter liars.

  37. I really wish someone would compare the statistics between Canada, the US, and Europe.

    They all have different drinking ages with the US the highest, Europe the lowest, and Canada in between. I believe it would be a lot more accurate, especially if one would look at the drinking cultures of the separate nations. In the US it’s all about binge drinking because alcohol is harder to come by for those underaged.

    It’s definitely not the same in Canada. When I go out to bars it’s more casual drinking than binge drinking. After that, I just walk home. Don’t tell me that as an 18 year old, I’m too irresponsible for that.

  38. Maybe the parents should step up to the plate take responsibility for their “children”

    Maybe we should raise the age of parenting! OH, but that would raise another topic wouldn’t it???

  39. Leave it at 21, I grew up in the 70’s and we lost too many folks to drinking and driving and it is true deaths went way down when the age went back up. Besides y’all have enough trouble texting and driving, imagine doing it drunk. Kids will always find booze, they don;t need it made easier.
    Or if it does go down, make 1st time offenders do jail time no matter their age, hell make do jail time even if it doesn’t go down.
    Drunks on the road are not needed.

  40. I understand this debate: why should an 18 year old who can fight in iraq not be able to enjoy a cold one?

    Although there’s a lot of good arguments for changing the drinking age, I think doing so would really hurt some people. As for the binge drinking, college aged kids are going to do it whether or not the beer is legal.

    See, the drinking age is 21, but 18 year olds seem to get alcohol fairly easily. If the drinking age were 18, think about how much easier it would be for a 15, 16 and 17 year olds to obtain alcohol. Drinking in high school is already a problem.

    I think the buffer between 18 and 21 prevents a lot of alcohol from reaching high school students.

    And for now, those 18 year olds can drink some Vivi Acai Berry Soda, it’s much healthier and better tasting anyway

  41. How about the fact that the human body isn’t fully grown till sometime in the early to mid 20’s.
    With that growth the liver is also included. If over indulging of alcohol takes place before the liver is fully grown the alcohol can stunt, and degrade the quality of the liver even before it has reached full maturity. There are plenty more health reasons as to why the age is limited to 21. Just follow the rules. No one likes an ignorant drunk anyway kids. Have some water.

  42. 21 is too young for drinking.
    16 is far too young for driving.
    Both should be raised 5 years.

  43. I believe that the drinking age should be lowered. Teen’s today are already exposed to alcohol (even as young as 14 years old). To say this isn’t true is being ignorant. Now if the drinking age was lowered, teens would get exposed to drinking in a more mature environment, aka while their still living at home and have parents who can teach them right from wrong. I do enjoy a few drinks now and then, usually a beer with pizza or wine with Italian food. A mixed drink at my friend’s house to relax by the pool. The people who drink to get passed out, eventually learn how immature their binge drinking really is right after their first bad hangover. I mean seriously these laws are messed up, you can die for your country but you can’t even touch a beer without the fear of getting arrested. The more people wake up and realize this, the sooner the drinking age will be lowered

  44. The legal drinking age is 18.

  45. Lowering the drinking age to 18 wouldn’t make much of a difference. There are probably some people who party in college who didn’t party in high school, but truthfully a huge number of underage binge drinkers are in high school or younger.

    How about do something to change the obnoxious “let’s go out and get trashed every night!” culture that seems to pervade our society. Whether it’s legal or not doesn’t make it any less a waste of time.

    Those exceptions are interesting, though — does that mean if you’re 19 but married to a 22-year-old you can drink all you want as long as they’re present? And what’s the deal with the “medical uses” and “during the course of legal employment” bits?

  46. Based on my real experience -that is fact - drink period is from 18 to 21!

  47. The drinking age is 21 in the states due to the fact that your youth isn’t mature enough to handle alcohol until that time. Look at Europe… Do they have the same problems with booze as you Americans do? Up here, past your northern borders in ‘Snowland’, where we all drive dog sleds to work, live in igloos, and smash baby seals on the head for fun, our drinking age is 18, and we don’t have problems with alcohol like you highly educated people down south…

    Hmmm… Outside of Canada everyone hates Canadians because we are so arrogant and assholish and think that the world revolves around us. It’s amazing how many Canadians can make it through high school and don’t even know how to read… Your system is broken US… Hopefully Obama is going to fix it for you…

  48. i think calling it “dangerous, clandestine binge-drinking” just makes it sound even cooler. if anything this article is contributing to underage drinking.

  49. it is not a big deal. It is like Curfew in some university. I don’t either understand. We are not in army!

  50. Everyone seems to be looking at this the wrong way. Giving them more freedom means they have to learn how to use it THEMSELVES. No teen or “young adult” that has ever had to sit in class and watch a film on alcohol abuse really ever walks away saying, “Hey, that’s dangerous. I shouldn’t do it.” They never think a crash can happen to them. You can’t HAND knowledge like this to them and expect them to use it wisely. You have to throw them out there and let them experience it.

    And who’s to say being 21 means you can’t abuse alcohol? Do people stop binge drinking after they can legally buy alcohol? After a certain period of time, everyone that binge drinks will either get in a crash or stop binge drinking because it takes a tole on them anyway.

    So, without experience and responsibility college kids and anyone else that is between the age of 18 and 20 won’t know how to control their freedom and set their own limits. It’s a do or die situation, and for some people who can’t handle it, a do AND die situation.

  51. Alcohol is a federally funded, politically immune drug. Marketing, peer pressure, and the overwhelming urge to use again is enough to make just about anyone a “irresponsible” user at some point in his/her life. Isn’t it weird we have to resist government approved advertising of a drug in order to make a “responsible” decision?

  52. If someone is told that something (alcohol) is bad and that they shouldn’t do it or use it then that person usually wants to try it. We’re told that speeding leads to more motor vehicle accidents, yet most people on the roads drive at least 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit. The surgeon general tells us that cigarettes cause cancer, but thousands upon thousands of people still smoke. We have to have faith in people to make the right decision…and even if it’s not the right decision it is still one that everyone has to make for themselves. After spending 6 weeks in Italy this past summer, I have seen first hand that a drinking age of 18 does not cause lawlessness and chaos. It was quite the opposite, actually. The bars were much calmer and more relaxed. The people didn’t drink to get drunk, they drank to relax and it was more about the people they were with. This seemed to be true in every region that I visited. The problem is that alcohol in the states has a negative stigma surrounding it. Children in Italy grow up with wine at the table. Children in the states grow up being told that alcohol is evil. Just my opinion. Thanks for reading.

  53. The drinking age and the age KIDS can join the military should be 21.

  54. I’m gonna have to call bullshit on that 21 being the age of adulthood in English common law for centuries until I see some substantiation. The “you’re not a grownup until your 30″ movement is a recent phenomenon. Back in the day children were forced to grow up much younger and work, and back in the days of feudalism beer was healthier than water because the fermentation process killed bacteria that might have been in drinking water. There was no drinking age.

  55. There was mention of how drunk driving fatalities have decreased over the last 26 years. It would be interesting to look into the statistic of alcohol related deaths on college campuses over that same period of time.

    Also, somebody said because 18 year olds binge drink they are not responsible enough to drink legally. 2 points to that. 1. Plently of people that are legal to drink still binge drink a good amount, there are some 18 year olds that are much more responsible than 21 year olds out there. 2. If 18 year olds were allowed to drink they wouldn’t try to drink as much as they could while they had access to it. They would drink in more moderate amounts.

    Its like finding gold if your a poor man, your going to consume as much as possible while you have access to it. While if you find gold as a wealthy person your less likely to get your hands on as much as you possibly can.

  56. to all of you that say that the drinking age should be 21…i want to ask you how old you were when you bought your first beer? probably 18. Being from New Olreans, i have been drinking since the ripe age of 12. But fortunately, i have understanding parents who let me drink with them to learn my limits. now that i am 20 and in college, i find that the kids lying in the parking lot outside of the bars about to puke are the ones that were never allowed to drink in a supervised setting. Most of the bars in New Olreans and in Baton Rouge(by LSU) are 18+. this means that even if you are 21…you are still going to be hanging at bars with a bunch of 18 year olds. changing the drinking age would change out culture to be more relaxed about alcohol

  57. your not a grownup till 25 or 30 when you can actually rent a car.

  58. When i was 18 you never knew when we would get booze again so of course we drank it till we passed out. This is the problem. Having 18-20 year olds dangerously drunk, frightened to tell or call for help if someone is totally wasted is causing a huge rise in alcohol poisoning cases on campus. The fact your old enough to kill people but not old enough to drink a liquid is crazy. Lower it or raise everything to 21

  59. I remember being an 18 year old in Louisiana in 1994, the year before they changed the above referenced law. My understanding (based on teen-aged rumors, not statute) was that is was legal to purchase alcohol under the age of 21, but illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21.

    I purchased various forms of alcoholic beverages, as it appears, illegally. (I also drank it, which was also probably illegal).

  60. Speaking as a 21-year-old college student, I support lowering the drinking age. Yeah, you’re all thinking, “Right, 21, she probably goes out and parties,” but I swear, I never touch the stuff - can’t stand the taste. I am the daughter of two paramedics though, I’ve seen and heard about what alcohol does. I think that the major problem with binge drinking is that people want to do it because it’s forbidden. They don’t really care about it, they just want to because people tell them they can’t. I also think it’s ridiculous that we live in a country where we allow people to die for their country at eighteen, but they can’t have any alcohol until they’re 21.

    And Omicron; I’ve never bothered to consider Canadians arrogant, or anything other than ordinary people. But perhaps if people do consider Canadians to be arrogant assholes, it’s because of you.

  61. When I was in college, there was a pub on campus that served beer and pizza. I went back recently — today it is now a cafe serving bran muffins and fruit smoothies. This made me very sad.

    Back then we had dangerous, out-in-the-open, binge drinking. I can’t imagine how annoying the clandestine variety would be.

    Personally, I think we should lower the drinking age to 16, and raise the driving age to 21. I think it would be much safer to learn how to drink before we learn how to drive, rather than the other way around.

  62. I like to think that since mankind has begun to cure many diseases and other causes of death with medical procedures, medications and protective practices and such like airbags and seatbelts and the like, binge drinking is one of life’s many ways of encouraging mankind to thin out the ranks a little. A little alcohol, a little stupidity and before you know it the only people left are the intelligent ones.

  63. In Australia the legal drinking age is 18 so most young people start binge drinking when they are about 16.

  64. Agree with Sue.If 18 years old are old enough to be responsible to serve the country in the military and able to vote for our leaders, they must be responsible for purchasing alcohol. I think 18 is not the right age to purchase alcohol but don’t understand either why 21 should be ‘right’ age.

  65. I myself don’t understand how immature this country can be….well not immature, but overly prudish. Many European countries have a legal drinking age of 18 or some, even lower and yet they don’t even come close to our tallies of drunken related fatalities and statistics. The only way I see this problem is due to a lack of proper education about alcohol both at home and at schools.

  66. First off, I would like to say that I agree with Phineas on the point of lowering the drinking age to 16 and the driving age to 21. It really does make more sense, because a motor vehicle is inherently a much more dangerous thing than alcohol, yet we entrust it to much younger people.

    Secondly, I would like to say that we should stop comparing America to the Eurpoeans in the fact that they have fewer alcohol-related fatalities than we do. Think for a moment about the size of your average European country. It’s going to be the size of one of our average states. That being said, we have a lot more people than they do! Of course we’re going to have more deaths related to alcohol! We have more people!

    Finally, in reference to the difference in mentalities of Americans and Europeans in regards to alcohol, it will take many many years to change the mentality of a people who are already used to the idea of 21 being the legal drinking age, and that when you are 18 the only way to drink is to go out and binge. When you change a law or and regulation, that will not change the mentality of the people, and will ultimately make change for the worse.

    I am 19 years old, for reference.

  67. You’re a smart fella, Jeremy.

  68. I think the drinking age should indeed be lowered to 18 or 19. You’re either legally an adult or you aren’t; you can’t have it both ways. Stop the coddling, already, 18 year olds are old enough to vote, enlist in the military, get married, hold jobs, whatever. If you force up on them the responsibilities, give them the rights, too. MADD and the US Government are quite deliberately confusing the drinking issue with the driving issue. You shouldn’t drive when you’ve been drinking to excess whether you are 16, 18, 19, 21, 47, or 75. In fact, several studies have shown that the biggest problem with drunk driving is amongst hard core drinkers who have multiple convictions (and people who do it [on average] only get caught a minimial percentage of the time they actually do it). Also, a lot of othewise law-abiding people in the Baby Boomer generation actually think the 21 age is more or less a joke anyway - even my brother and sister who are pretty tough parents (and have 3 kids each, ages 16-22) and are in their early 50s tend to look aside when their kids after 17-18 or so drink as long as they have a safe ride home (which they will provide if necessary). That is refreshing compared to our mutual parents (now in their late 70s) who set absolute curfews and were happy as long as we were home by 11:00, no matter if upon arrival we were barely capable of staying upright, much less driving. For the record, I am 38.

  69. Jeremy: Your ‘we have more people and we’re bigger’ argument doesn’t work. If you researched a little more, then you might have come to the realisation that when statistics on things are made, it’s not done as an exact country-by-country comparison, but in pro-rata to the relevant sizes.

    The various bureaus of statistics don’t just sit there and go “Ha! The US had 48,000 road deaths this year, and Monaco only had 821 - that means Monaco had LESS road fatalities than the US!”

  70. In most places in Europe, they can drink beer at 16 and hard liquor at 18 and yet they have fewer problems with binge drinking, drunk driving, etc….

    Case closed.

  71. So you must be 21 to drink that 3% beer of yours but only 17 to enlist and get yourself shot because someone you hand a gun can’t possibly be responsible enough to drink a beer in a bar… Make perfect sense to me ^^ Legal drinking age here is 16 for beer & wine and 18 for booze with the nice side effect that most people know how to handle alcohol by age of 18 and won’t drink and drive….

  72. Over here in Europe, the legal drinking age is 18. However, teenagers often drink say, a glass of wine, at dinner with their parents. Europe does not have the alcohol problems that the US does, because people are exposed to it earlier in life, and learn how to do it responsibley. Also, while stationed in Germany, I’m not sure about soldiers, but dependants are allowed to drink at 18.

  73. Actually, Louisiana would have kept the drinking age at 18 if it weren’t for federal laws put in place that would yank federal money from the state for roads, etc. It was either keep the young boozed or keep the roads paved….

  74. Alright guys. This is ridiculous.

    1.) Europe’s drinking age is not 18, it varies by country (I was in a bar at 15 in Italy with no problem. The first time I ever actually walked in was when I was 15, and I have never been carded.)

    2.) Whoever got on the kid about the U.S. begin larger and thus has more deaths is being ignorant. Of course they do what you said they didn’t. Statistics are about scare tactics for the most part. Secondly, if there is an accurate test, then the tests are “Per Capita” and therefore 10 U.S. is the same as 10 Monaco.

    3.) Yes, everyone says that if you can vote, enlist, etc. then you should be allowed to drink. This should be the case but that doesn’t necessarily mean the drinking age should be the same as the age you need to be to do those thing; it should be lower. You should definitely be older to put yourself into battle with weapons and wars than to put yourself into a battle with a fifth.

    4.) Raise the driving age and lower the drinking age. This would allow some time to understand how your body works around alcohol. It let’s you understand and feel how impaired you can be.

    5.) MADD is a ridiculous organization. They don’t do a single thing to stop drinking and driving, they are just the ones to complain about it. And, for that matter, they really can’t. They can not regulate under age drinking and driving, nor can they punish for it. They are as useless as a braille playboy.

    6.) I am 24 for your…opinions of my opinions.

    7.) Bring back 80’s Speed Metal. (Joke)

  75. Wow. There are sure a lot of long opinions here.

  76. In my opinion, people need to be realistic. Many of these posts say that people are concerned about 14, 15, 16 year olds getting access to alcohol if the drinking age lowers. HELLO? Growing up in a small town in NY where everyone knows everyone’s business, most teenagers still drink. They party with college people, or have siblings who are of age, etc.

    Besides, is Marijuana legal? No, but I know 13 year olds who can get it. And alcohol must be SO much harder to come by…?
    Legal or not, teens are going to drink. Having the age lowered might decrease binge drinking.

  77. Underage drinking is something of an inevitabilty. That said, in Europe, Canada and most places around the world, the drinking age is 18, which means that when kids are partying, they are doing it in High School, where their parents have some control over what it is that the teenagers do. Then, by the time they’re in college, drinking has lost a significant amount of its allure, and so binging is less likely.
    I was raised in Asia (Thailand and China), and the drinking laws there are…lax. Most kids in my high school partied on weekends, but they had safe places to go afterwards and largely stayed out of serious trouble. I’m a freshman in college here in the US, and I am consistently bored with the party scene here. The point doesn’t seem to be to have fun, rather it’s to drink as much as you can in as short a time as possible. I did all of this when I was 16 and 17, thus learning that I don’t like the feeling of being drunk, and am not necessarily a happier person for it, something which my 18 and 19 year old peers are learning, but without the safety net of their parents to come pick them up if things go too far.
    If the US were to lower the drinking age, binge drinking and stupid decisions would probably be less likely to occur in the terrifying and relatively unsupportive college environment.

  78. In Quebec, one of my culture shocks came (I am from English Canada) when I would see groups of family members casually stroll down to the beach and stake out sections for themselves. In one area would be the parents with smaller children, in another teenagers with beer. Officially the drinking age is 18, but brought out into the open and enjoyed in the midst of the entire community, the teenagers never left a mess and rarely caused any problems. And many of them were younger than 18. They looked after each other, and the adults looked after everyone.

    In Ontario, where the drinking age is 19, most of us had easy access to alcohol at a much younger age. A police officer who lived in town frequently walked his dog near where we went ‘to party’. Understanding perhaps his own years as a teenager, the officer only offered us one piece of advice: “Don’t break anything or leave anything behind”.

    We honoured his request without fail.

    Responsible drinking is taught by community elders who have the wisdom to know what young people are thinking, and that criminalizing every ‘bad’ behaviour only makes criminals, unnecessarily, out of young people.

  79. I think it should be changed. 18 year olds are considered mature enough to vote and serve in our military but they cant sit down and have a drink. Doesnt make much sense to me.

  80. RE: to Jim Bean-”I am glad the drinking age is 21 and hope it stays there. These dumb kids of today are too ignorant as it is.”
    Funny how you say that when there are ignorant adults as well. My family and I were victims of the outcome of a “responsible adult” and the emotional scars are still there. So for people to say that there should be education for young people ask yourself this-how many times have you had a parent end up in the hospital for open heart surgery and the other sitting in jail hoping that the other lives after a drunken fight? and no wonder people between the ages of 35-65 are in AA meetings…they need the education as well before it gets that far!

  81. Im a 22 year old who believes the drinking age should be lowered. This opinion is based on personally experience. When i was younger i bined drank on a regular bases. This was the most part because thew authorities said i could not. After i turned 21 though and could go to the bar. I didnt drin nearly as much partially because it was no longer illegal for me to do so and because i did so much of it at a younger age. With the whole cutting state funding if its lower than 21. You shouldnt be suprissed. They use this tactic for multiple things included the illegelization of marijuana. So to some it all up if you can die for your country you should be able to drink in it.

  82. I think it is more then just an age issue. I’m an american and was brought up with European sensibilities about alcohol: drink it with food, as a night cap, or to take the edge off o a really bad day, not to get wasted. I had beer with dinner and amaretto nightcaps.

    But when i want away to college, the only stuff i had access to was natty ice(which tastes like piss), and tequila. I couldn’t buy what I wanted, and suddenly, I started playing drinking games and such. once i turned 21 and could buy what i wanted, that stopped.

    Make everything the same age, be that 18 or 21, including driving. If my brother can be drafted, then he should be able to drink a guinness. the culture issue needs to be looked at, but that will take a long time to change. also, my friend is was an alcoholic at 19, because he had nothing better to do in his hometown. No matter the drinking age, kids will drink. allow them to do it safely and responsibly.

    also, the reason 21 is the age of consent in english common law is that is the age the vast majority of apprentiships during the middle ages and renaissance were over. you weren’t considered an adult until you were no longer an apprentice, but a master. funny, the things you learn in economic history.

  83. I was going to cite the author as a source for my paper but i then realized he writes for a journal about taking pictures a Ryan Leaf jerseys?

  84. I think the United States should flip flop the drinking age with the driving age, like they do in Germany. I would much rather face a drunk teen on foot than an easily distracted one behind the wheel. Why do we think people need to be more mature to drink than to drive? A vehicle is a much more deadly weapon.