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The Debate About Lowering the Drinking Age Essay

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Updated: May 12th, 2022

The debate over whether to lower the drinking age has become a controversial issue, with both sides offering reasons and researches to support their viewpoint. The debate was again sparked when Jessica Bush the president’s daughter who is around 19, was caught drinking and using fake identification to buy alcohol. The debate is going on in a number of states, with some states with already formulated legislation for lowering the drinking age which needs to be passed. Examples of where such legislations have been passed are Dakota, Vermont, and Minnesota. However, there are federal laws that will definitely discourage states to lower the drinking age. One such law designed to discourage legalizing underage drinking is that if any state approves such legislation, 10% of its appropriations on the highway will be taken away as a penalty.

The argument about lowering the drinking age started earlier when the drinking age was lowered during the Vietnam War. The logic then was if we are letting 19, 20-year-olds fight in Vietnam it seems a little unfair to not let them drink. However, after lowering the drinking age, the number of highway accidents showed a sharp increase and in a knee-jerk reaction, the US government increased the minimum age and placed the earlier discussed penalty on those states which would not comply. However, some material discussed later points out why the best way to keep a check on excessive drinking by 19, 20-year-olds may be to lower the drinking age. This is also a very important issue now when binge drinking by legally underage drinking has become a serious problem.

The major argument that should be considered in support of lowering the legal drinking age, is that if an individual can be expected to serve in the army and survive the mental trauma that is experienced in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, then is it really fair to not allow someone of that age to drink. We can further stress the absurdity of this contrast when we analyze some of the impacts that the war has on young men and women even after they return. An example of this impact is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Around 12,422 war veterans have been in VA counseling with this disorder.

Some suggest in response to the logic that if you are old enough to go to war, that alcohol should be legalized only for military personnel. Some states are planning to pass such legislation which legalizes lowering the drinking age only for military personnel. However this kind of legislation also misses the point, if you think that someone is mature enough to handle a gun in their hand in an intense war zone, then why should someone of that age not be mature enough to handle a bear.

Another similar point is again when you let 19 and 20-year-olds vote, a decision which in effect shapes the future of the country, you still think they are too young to handle alcohol. The point is that looking at these two factors the logic for not lowering the drinking age, that kids that age are not responsible enough to handle alcohol seem to be a little weak. This point can be summarized by the following quote

‘It’s one of the stupidest laws in America,” Justin Schmid, 21, a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas told Fox News. “You can be drafted by your country, go to war — yet you can’t have a beer. You can be tried as an adult — yet you can’t have a beer.”

A major reason offered by those who oppose lowering the drinking age is that we tried it before, during the Vietnam War, but as mentioned earlier there was an increase in road accidents, and the age was once again increased to 21. However, a deeper analysis of this point shows that this reason may not be good enough. First of all, it is said that the number of accidents decreased after the law was repealed. However, a closer analysis shows that the decrease in drinking and driving problems since the 1980s, which are generally attributed to the 1987 law which made the age restriction mandatory, actually started happening even before this law was initiated. There has been a decreasing trend due to other variables such as better awareness about drinking and driving and improved safety mechanisms like the safety belt.

Other individuals point out the increase in binge drinking especially on college campuses in which students are engaging in the consumption of hard liquor in unsupervised conditions. They use this observation to point out that 19, 20-year-olds cannot handle alcohol, they are simply not responsible enough. However, some experts give some reasons why not lowering the drinking age may have worsened the situation. For example, according to Professor Engs from Indiana University who has carried out considerable research on this issue, in communities all over the world such as Chinese, Greek, and Italian, the drinking age is lower teenagers manage alcohol a lot better because they are exposed to it at home and it is simply not considered a big deal.

Also, it is obvious prohibiting drinking is not working, binge drinking is still very common. In fact, several College presidents are signing onto the idea of lowering the drinking age, because if it’s legal then it will be consumed in a more controlled and less dangerous environment and also lose some of the allure that it has acquired. The point is that teenagers cannot be told to be more responsible while drinking or drink in moderation, they are simply told to abstain from drinking. All these points appear to be supported by the fact that from 1993 to around 2003, the number of underage drinking students engaged in binge drinking has increased by 56%. Also, another fact in support of Dr. Engs’ point is that in 2003a study showed that teenagers in countries where the drinking age is lower tend to get drunk less.

A quote by another expert points to the same thing “Raising the drinking age to 21 was passed with the very best of intentions, but it’s had the very worst of outcomes,” said David J. Hanson, an alcohol policy expert at the State University of New York-Potsdam. “Just like during national Prohibition, the law has pushed and forced underage drinking and youthful drinking underground, where we have no control over it.” Johnson Alex ‘Debate on lower drinking age bubbling up’.

In conclusion, it can be said that there is not very credible evidence or logic that supports not lowering the drinking age. On the one side, Engs’ you have a serious contradiction. To assume that someone of a certain age is old enough to kill and get risk getting killed and that they are old enough to vote, but still not old enough to handle alcohol is not very sound logic. The statement that lowering the legal drinking age would make our highways more unsafe again is a premise derived from contradictory data. Facts point out that the lowering in the number of road accidents was a trend before the law setting the age barrier was passed and also that there are some other factors to which this can be attributed and no to underage drinking. Recent trends indicate that there has been an increase in binge drinking amongst students on college campuses. Experts point out that not lowering the drinking age, actually promotes binge drinking and also results in alcohol consumption only being in dangerous and controlled environments. Evidence from within our country and some from other societies such as Greece and Italy seem to support the viewpoint of these experts.


  1. Johnson Alex ‘Debate on lower drinking age bubbling up’ msnbc 2007.
  2. Keen Judy ‘’ USA Today. Web.
  3. Pope Justin ‘’ Sun Times, 2008. Web.
  4. Kinzie Susan Hohhman James , 2008 Washington Post. Web.
  5. Engs C Ruth ‘ Why the drinking age should be lowered: An opinion based upon research’ 1998.
  6. T. Buddy ‘ 2008 ABOUT.COM. Web.
  7. Roan Shari ‘’ 2008 Los Angeles Times. Web.
  8. Welch William ‘’ 2005. Web.
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