The Drinking Age: 21 For Everyone?

Mike Bilyeu


In the United States, the legal drinking age for all 50 States and the
District of Columbia is 21 years of age. The drinking age is 21 because the
powers that control our government decided that when one becomes 21, one is
magically transformed into a responsible person capable of handling the burden
that comes with the right to consume alcohol. The drinking age is too high in
this country. Why enact laws to prohibit an act that will be ignored by many of
our peers?
The opposition may say that the higher drinking age discourage teenagers
and young adults from consuming alcohol. They say the laws that force merchants
to refuse to sell alcohol to persons under 21 years of age will help stem the
"problem" of underage consumption. They believe this will make it virtually
impossible for people under 21 to obtain alcohol. The opposition also believes
that the laws against underage consumption of alcoholic beverages will dissuade
young people from drinking alcohol.
The laws that prohibit merchants from selling alcohol to persons under
21 are hard to enforce. Even if they are enforced by the authorities, the
establishment that breaks that law is rarely punished severely. For example, in
Belmont County in Ohio, the police conducted raids of 5-10 different
establishments in 1993 that had liquor licenses and reportedly to sell alcoholic
beverages to minors. It was proven that each business in question had indeed
been guilty of the charges. What would one suspect happen to the business?
Wouldn\'t one expect for them to lose their liquor license? On the contrary,
these businesses were given probation without so much as a fine.
Also, even if the person under 21 cannot go buy the alcohol himself
because he is refused by a merchant, he can find an adult and give them the
money needed to purchase the alcohol and have them purchase it for them. This
is especially active around college campuses, where it seems to be an accepted
practice for seniors, who are generally over 21, to go and purchase the alcohol
for the underage drinker. If a person did not want to go through the hassle of
asking an older person, they could go someone skilled in the art of making fake
ID\'s. This is a burgeoning business among the different campuses I visited.
Spending two weeks at Ohio State, one had the offer of three different authentic
looking Ohio driver\'s licenses. So, as one can see it is quite easy for an
underage drinker to obtain alcohol.
One may think that the penalties for underage drinking would be severe
while in fact they are quite light unless one is unfortunate enough to be
arrested for DUI. The penalty for being convicted of underage consumption is
generally a slap on the wrist for offenders. They usually are required to pay
court costs and attend an alcohol rehabilitation counseling session.
Finally, why can other countries condone the act of consuming alcohol as
a young person when it is such an "immoral" act in the United States? In many
other countries it is a widely accepted practice to drink a glass of wine or
other alcoholic beverage with their meal. In this way, they learn moderation.
If people in the United States learned moderation at a young age, then they
would be less apt to binge drink (drink just to become drunk). This would
result in far fewer deaths from alcohol related causes since more people would
know how to imbibe without excess.
Obviously then the law is not working. Why keep a law that cannot be
enforced? If the repercussions from the act of breaking the law are few and
light, Why retain the law at all? The legal drinking age in the United States
must be lowered now. If young people in other countries can handle the
responsibility of drinking, why can\'t it be the same for our country?

Category: Social Issues