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Debate on the Legal Drinking Age Essay

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Updated: Apr 28th, 2022


Legal drinking age is the age at which the law allows a person to buy or consume alcoholic drinks. The minimum age that a person is allowed to consume alcohol ranges between 17 an 21 years across the word. However, it is almost unanimous that the average drinking age should be 18 years. While it is apparent that young people should stay away from alcohol until they reach 18 years, reality tells us otherwise.

The reason is that minimum drinking laws apply in public places only. According to Plant and Plant, the authorities rarely regulate alcohol consumption at home (891). The legal drinking age has elicited unprecedented arguments across the world. While some people argue that the legal drinking age should be lowered, others highlight the apparent negative effects on the health of young people.

As such, there have been no conclusive decisions across the world on the matter. This paper explores the concept of legal drinking age in light of these arguments. Particularly, the paper will review various articles that support the argument that the legal age ought to increase. Also, the paper will provide counter-arguments as a way of highlighting alternative views and perspectives.

Hanson asserts that the problem of alcohol has increased in an unprecedented way for the last decade (28). According to him, about 78 percent of Americans have consumed alcohol more than twice in their lifetime (87). While these numbers are staggering, the levels of alcoholism have increased rapidly within the same period. Hence, it is critical to highlight the effects of low legal drinking age on young people.

At the outset, lower drinking age predisposes young people to early alcohol consumption. This does not only increase their risk of adverse effects but also renders them unable to participate in their activities fully (Lunsford 24). By lowering the legal drinking age, the authorities will have given the young people leeway to many other drugs.

The rationale is that young people experience peer influence implying that some student s will be able to influence the rest to consume alcohol (Plant and Plant 888). According to Miron, peers are the most important agents of socialization and help an individual to acquire beliefs, attitudes, and values (7).

In other words, teenagers will consume alcohol at a young age since their peers are doing it. This entrenches the belief that alcohol is appropriate in the minds of the young people increasing the likelihood of repeated behavior (Fujioka and Pinkleton 577).

It is important to underscore the number of revenues that go to curing and treating preventable diseases such as alcoholism. According to Miron, the government directs around $28 billion to facilitate the treatment of preventable illnesses and diseases (19). Alcohol intake leads to long-term effects and diseases such as liver cirrhosis, addiction, and gout.

By lowering the legal drinking age, the government will not only increase its spending towards such preventable illnesses but also grapple with sustaining such programs. On the other hand, the government will stand to save huge amounts of revenues that it currently budgets for preventable diseases. Also, the number of resources will be directed towards other sectors and programs that can stimulate the economy (Plant and Plant 890).

For instance, the US government can save hugely on preventable illnesses and increase its funding towards fighting unemployment. As such, it is important for the law to allow an increment of the years that an individual is legally allowed to consume alcohol.

Empirical studies have shown that alcohol consumption is more dangerous for young people than for grownups. Miron establishes that people who indulge in alcohol at a low age are likely to develop alcohol-related disorders at their adulthood (29).

This is unlike people who begin to consume alcohol at an advanced age. Also, it is important to underscore the significance of individual characteristics vis a vis their likelihood of developing alcoholism and alcohol-related disorders (Rosen and Behrens 70).

For instance, Hanson postulates that a child with a psychiatric background of attention deficit disorder as well as hyperactivity is more vulnerable to alcohol-related problems at adulthood (45). Also, Hanson argues that alcoholism is hereditary and there are biological genes that parents may pass to their children.

This implies that they are vulnerable to dangerous drinking habits. By lowering the legal drinking age, the vulnerable young people will be at risk of drinking at an early age leading to high chances of early alcoholism (Plant and Plant 895). By increasing the legal drinking age; therefore, the vulnerable young people will be protected from the adverse effects of alcohol.

It is apparent that low legal drinking age will also lead to loss of productivity among the future generations (Plant and Plant 890). After passing through the education system, it is expected that the young will join the workforce. In other words, they join the labor market and sell their learned skills in exchange for wages through employment.

To the contrary, Plant and Plant say that people who began drinking at an early age are not likely to produce optimally (892). This is in consideration of the fact that some young people will begin experiencing the effects of alcohol including addiction, poor health and may be unable to join the workforce. This is not only a major concern for our aging population but also for the government, that expects increased production (Hanson 67).

Miron articulates that early drinking is a major concern for the economy since it tends to deprive the economy some of the most youthful, innovative and creative laborers (44). To this end, the regulatory authorities should be unmoved in a resolute decision to increase the age at which an individual can consume, buy and sell alcohol.

This ensures that the productive young people will join the labor markets and ultimately, assist in expanding the economy. As such, the legal drinking age ought to be reviewed upwardly.

By increasing the legal drinking age, authorities will be in a position to counter the negative effects that pop culture and ads have on young people (Fujioka and Pinkerton 573). Currently, media is a major agent of providing information to a majority of the world’s population. While this unarguable, Miron articulates that media is an instrument through which the young people acquire knowledge about alcohol (49).

He says that the media inculcates positive attitudes and beliefs among young people regarding alcohol consumption (9). Also, popular culture has had its fair share of entrenching positive beliefs about alcohol. Low legal drinking age allows young people to attend various concerts held by pop artists (Plant and Plant 891).

The concerts do not only predispose young people to alcohol but also other hard drugs. By increasing the legal drinking age, the pub owners will neither allow young people to enter their premises nor allow the pop artists to perform for the underage population (Hanson 45).

Plant and Plant posit that a high legal drinking age allows people to make informed choices and decisions about alcohol (889). Most young people are not aware of the dangers of alcohol consumption (Miron 8). Besides, most young people are unable to make their own decisions without influences from their peers (Fujioka and Pinkleton 582). Therefore, they are unable to understand the effects of alcohol on their future lives.

For instance, various studies have revealed that there is a positive correlation between making the right decisions and age. Plant and Plant elucidate that over 59% of high school students consume alcohol as a means of socializing and identifying with their peers (889). Hanson says that peer pressure is most influential amongst young people when compared to other age categories of the population (79).

This is contrary to a prevalent notion that people (whether young or old) can make independent choices and decisions. As such, the authorities will ensure that young people will not suffer from undue influences when making decisions about alcohol consumption if they increase the legal drinking age. For instance, at the age of twenty-one years, people can make more rational decisions than at the age of 17 years.

Besides, the age at which the young people ought to consume alcohol should rely on empirical evidence that highlight the correlation between age and decision-making (Fujioka and Pinkleton 582). Fujioka and Pinkleton assert that young people can make major decisions at the age of twenty years (582).

This is due to their cognitive makeup that is dependent on experience and prior knowledge. It is therefore important to increase the age at which young people can purchase and consume alcohol freely.

While proponents argue that legal drinking age ought to be increased, opponents hold opposite opinion regarding the debate. At the outset, empirical studies do not provide conclusive decisions about the relationship between age and alcoholism. Miron points out that such deficiency in research may lead to the assumption that alcohol consumption is healthy even for young people (34).

Besides, the available scientific research does not reveal the exact age when the human body can digest alcohol without experiencing negative effects. These gaps in the field of research have been unable to explain the reason behind high legal drinking age except for moral reasons. To that end, opponents argue that alcohol consumption is a matter that relates more to individual moral standpoints as opposed to age.

In particular, Hanson says that low drinking age in Cyprus (currently standing at 17) does not lead to more consumption of alcohol than in countries like Uganda whose legal drinking age is 21 (67). According to Rosen and Behrens, it defeats logic to presuppose that reduction of alcohol intake will come about due to the highly regulated system (73).

As elucidated by Plant and Plant, opponents argue that the alcohol industry contributes significantly to the government’s revenues (891). Increasing the legal drinking age will, therefore, drive some alcohol businesses out of the market (Plant and Plant 892). This discriminative approach will not only lead to layoffs but also unemployment.

Fujioka and Pinkleton assert that young people even at the age of 16 can make decisions about alcohol consumption (574). In other words, he argues that countless messages that inform young people on the dangers of excessive consumption of alcohol are enough to caution young people. By increasing the legal drinking age, the government will create an environment that is unfavorable for the alcohol business.

This might also scare investors who are willing to invest in the sector. As such, alcohol consumption is about the moral grounds that people hold rather than an issue of age (Miron 56). It is, therefore, irrational to increase the legally acceptable drinking age owing to moral subjectivity.

While it is true that alcohol has negative effects on the health and life of a person, it is misleading to suggest that alcohol consumption ought to be regulated for specific and (probably) higher age category. The reason is that the authorities can regulate alcohol consumption without necessarily increasing the legal drinking age. For instance, Fujioka and Pinkelton pinpoint that alcohol should be highly taxed by the authorities (574).

This is an alternative approach towards ensuring that the sale of alcohol is only possible for people who can afford it. According to Miron, high-priced alcohol is a major strategy that can lead to the reduction of alcohol consumption without affecting the economy (54). Therefore, the authorities ought to explore various ways of regulating alcohol consumption among young people without affecting the economy.

Miron supports his arguments with an illustration of Cyprus where the legal drinking age is 17 years (54). He points out that alcohol is very expensive in Cyprus to the extent that even the 20 years old people are unable to afford (Miron 56). This does not only serve to entrench the notion that alcohol is regulations is more effective when using high taxations than when increasing the legal drinking age.

Fujioka and Pinkleton articulate that all persons can make their own decisions about alcohol consumption (576). This implies that young people can make independent decisions without depending on their peers for opinions. In other words, Hanson points out that decision making among people is dependent on experience, self-awareness, confidence and other non-cognitive attributes like age and peer pressure (23).

To him, a young person can distinguish various options and as such, drinks only because he or she has made the decision. Since they too have individual rights, young people ought to enjoy such freedoms in equal measure as the adults. As such, alcohol consumption is an individual decision and a choice that ought to be left to young people.

Besides, research has also shown that increasing the legal drinking age has failed to control people who consume alcohol at homes. The reason is that despite the efforts to curtail the rampant drinking habits by young people, they are exposed to instances of drinking on numerous occasions (Miron 87).

As such, it is not about the ability of the authorities to increase the drinking age but about the level of discipline instilled in a person. To that end, addressing the problem of alcohol by increasing the legal; drinking is an act of ‘addressing the symptom’ without addressing the cause in an amicable way.


In essence, the legal drinking age is the age at which an individual is allowed to consume, buy or sell alcohol (Lunsford 24). It ranges between 17 and 21 years across the world. While some people argue in favor of high drinking age in the country, others argue for reduced age of alcohol consumption. On the one hand, the proponents say that a low drinking age leads to high rates of alcohol-related disorders in adulthood.

It also leads to loss of productivity, revenues for the government and it supports pop culture. On the other hand, opponents make a different argument that no study has so far established the relationship between early drinking and decision-making processes (Miron 45). Besides, they argue that an increase in legal drinking age will reduce the market for the alcohol industry leading to diminished earnings.

It is important to articulate that the opponents also claim that there are other ways through which the authorities can regulate alcohol consumption among the young people.

Particularly, Plant and Plant say that the government could increase the tax rates charged on alcoholic drinks to make them expensive for both old and young members of the society (893). Finally, yet importantly, they make an argument that young people can make informed decisions on whether or not to consume alcohol without making inquiries from their parents and adults (Plant and Plant, 892).

Works Cited

Fujioka, Austin, and Bernard Pinkleton. “The Relationship of Perceived Beer Ad and PSA Quality to High School Students’ Alcohol-Related Beliefs and Behaviors.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 45.1 (2001): 575-584. Print.

Hanson, David. “Alcohol Education What We Must Do.” Journal of Health Sciences 5.8 (2009): 28-97. Print.

Lunsford, Andrea. The St. Martin’s Handbook for Eastern Kentucky University, New York: McGraw Hill Publishers, 2009. Print.

Miron, Jeffery. “Rethinking Minimum Legal Drinking Age.” Harvard Business Review 2.3 (March 2009): 13-140. Print.

Plant, Martin and Moira Plant.“Young People and Alcohol.” Journal of Research in Nursing 6.6 (2001): 887-897. Print.

Rosen, Leonard, and Laurence Behrens. Writing and Reading across the Curriculum. New Jersey: Pearson Publishers, 2011. Print.

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