The fact that most people begin drinking before the age of 21 is no secret. Underage drinking is a major problem in the society today. Despite the laws on age limits, underage drinking in school, university and homes is common. There are debates and controversy over the lowering of age limits for drinking. An article in the Los Angeles Times on 8/19/10 covered the signing of a petition lowering the drinking age; over 100 college president signed a petition advocating for lowering of the limit from 21 to 18 years. It raises a discussion on whether this is a good or bad decision. An analysis of various documents reveals evidence on the advantages and disadvantages of lowering the drinking age.
According to IDC (1), drinking habits contribute to several problems in the society. Alcohol consumption among youth result in over 4,700 deaths annually. It relates to a variety of health and social problems such as; alcohol-impaired driving, poor academic performance, physical fight, smoking and reckless sexual activities. Statistics show that 2 in every 3 students engage in binge drinking; they do this on a regular basis. There are various reasons why underage drinking should not be encouraged.
Early drinking affects youths’ futures and educations. Alcohol consumption shifts the person’s focus from school work to parties. Most students waste time at parties drinking and engaging in reckless behavior. They skip classes have no time for studies and fail in their courses. Some students even drop out of school and become addicts. Alcoholism destroys careers and dreams.
At the age of 18, most of the youth are still in school; they lack the objectivity and wisdom in making healthy choices. Many of them end up engaging in uncontrolled and excessive drinking. Making alcohol accessible to youths reduces the level of social responsibility and exposes youths, of lower ages, to alcoholism. Lowering the age limit increase the number of youths engaging in alcoholism.
Lowering the drinking age will not regulate or reduce drinking; it will only increase the number of youths engaging in alcohol consumption. It also increase the possibilities of engaging in drug use; alcohol parties involve marijuana, cocaine and other drug. The influence of alcohol and these substances affects judgment and increases the risk of accidents, poisoning and other fatalities.
The health risks are also evident; long term consumption of alcohol leads to liver complications, heart diseases, and so on. Alcohol-related accidents also lead to death and disabilities. Risky sexual behavior also occur when youth are under the influence of alcohol; they have multiple partners and engage in unprotected sex. It increases the risks of teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS.
When alcohol consumption starts at an early age, it develops into full-blown addiction. Later in life, the individual will waste finances and family resources in satisfying his/her addiction. It strains the person’s social relationships with friends and family. It also results in financial strain due to waste of funds in alcoholism. Educating the youth in alcoholism is not enough; this is because they still engage in alcoholism even when they are aware of the risks. The youth should be prevented from engaging in irresponsible drinking.
Just like various parties discourage the lowering of age limit for drinking, there are others in the support. The main argument is that, at 18 years, a person is old enough to make wise decisions. The person is allowed to join the army, marry, serve in juries, and sign contracts. In the same way, they should be allowed to choose whether they want to drink or not. The person is well aware of the social and health risks of drinking; he/she realize the need for responsible drinking habits (Ogilvie, 1).
The prohibition of drinking for people below the age of 21 is not efficient; despite the laws, the cases of underage drinking increase. Youths disregard the law and participate in clandestine and illegal drinking activities. It increases the risks involved since it occurs in an uncontrolled environment such as fraternity houses and house parties; this increases the chances of unsafe drinking games, excessive drinking, poisoning and reckless accidents. The legalization of alcohol consumption at 18years will ensure it occurs in controlled environments such as bars and restaurants. It also ensures the decision of drinking remains a personal choice and not an enforced rule. In most cases, teenagers are rebellious; forcing conditions on them only pushes them away from making wise decisions. According to research, teenage alcohol-related fatalities are likely to reduce if the drinking age is lowered.
Retaining the age limit at 21 years is economically expensive. The funds spent by the country in enforcing drinking laws can be used constructively; they should be used in educating the youth about responsible drinking; thus a blend of lowered drinking age and sensitization is beneficial. Strategies in preventing underage drinking have proven futile so far. The Drug Abuse Resistance Education in schools, for instance, has no evidence of productivity in alcoholism prevention; the rate of consumption continues rising.
The point of view does not suggest that alcohol consumption is entirely harmless. Excessive consumption of alcohol relates to various health hazards; early consumption worsens the situation. It has risks however, a person should have the freedom of choosing to drink or not; freedom comes with responsibility. There should be a focus on educating the youths about the risks of alcohol consumption; this guides towards choices on healthy living (McCann, 1).
CDC. Age 21 Minimum Drinking Age: Factsheet (2013): Web. Available from < http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/mlda.htm> [Accessed November 16, 2013]
McCann, Mac. Lower the Drinking Age. The Daily Texan (2013): Web. Available from < http://www.dailytexanonline.com/opinion/2012/11/13/lower-the-drinking-age> [Accessed November 16, 2013]
Ogilvie, Jessica, Pauline. ‘Is Lowering the Drinking Age a Good Idea?’ Los Angeles Times (2011): Web. Available from < http://www.kellygallagher.org/resources/AoW%209%20Drinking%20Age.pdf> [Accessed November 16, 2013]