In the US, the minimum drinking age policy was passed in 1984, July 17 that was aimed at passing the minimum age to purchase and possess alcoholic beverages to 21. The minimum drinking age was empowered Federal Aid Highway Act that was aimed to lower the annual federal highway allocation by 10% to any state that had a minimum drinking age below 21 years. The minimum drinking age has become a controversial topic among the policy makers and other stakeholders in the US economy. After considering the both sides of the coin, some policy makers in some states banned the legal drinking age for those below the age of 21 while others have not banned it. In addition, this essay addresses, the history of legal drinking age, pros and cons, and why it is a controversial topic.
Among the states that have support the minimum drinking age are Alabama, Vermont, North Carolina, Idaho, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Washington D.C. that means that this law is a state law with majority of the US state legalizing the underage drinking. In some states, the Minimum Drinking Act is applicable in some locations while private consumption is allowed in other locations where this act is banned. More so, this law does not criminalize alcoholic drinking during religious (Wagenaar & Toomey, 2002).
In reference to the history of this policy, it is imperative to not that before 1984, the states were allowed by the federal government to choose their minimum drinking age. It is after 1933 when states appealed against the federal government when the states were allowed to make their policies on the minimum drinking age. After the 1933 repeal of prohibition, most states set the minimum purchasing of alcoholic beverage age to be 21 years while a few had set a lower drinking age limit.
These limits remained up to 1970s after which 30 states lowered their drinking age to 18 years. This was triggered by the fact that the 26th amendment lowered the voting age to 18 from 21 and it is only 12 states who maintained their drinking age. Between 1976 and 1983, some states raised their drinking age to 19 while a few raised it to 20 and 21. The major reason for increasing the minimum drinking age was to control death resulting from drunk driving. In 1982, a commission was set up be President Reagan to research on the issues of drunk driving in US. This commission recommended that a minimum drinking limit of 21 should be implemented among all the states. This recommendation of influenced by Candy Lightner’s Mothers against Drunk Driving organization (O'Donnell, 1985). That resulted to Frank Lautenberg, the senator of New Jersey drafting the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act that resulted by 50 states complying to the Act by 1988. However, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and later in 2010 Guan maintained their drinking age limit at the age of 18 despite losing the highway funding (The US Federal Government, 2006).
Despite the well good intention for the legislators to control the drinking age and hence reduce the cases of fatal accidents, there others who have continued to advocate the banning of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. This based on a research carried out whose results displayed that those aged lower than 21 years are likely to engage in binge drinking with or without the enactment of the drinking limit policy. In 2001, Felix Ortiz, the New York State Assembly proposed a bill to lower the minimum drinking limit since it was a difficult to implement the Act and Act seemed unfair (Lovett, 2006). There other initiatives that include National Youth Rights Association of 1998 that was aimed at lowering the drinking age to 18. More so, John McCardel, the President of Vermont Middlebury College proposed, “the 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law” that has made the college drinking a major problem (Mosher & Akins, 2007, p. 21).
The1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act was intended for the good of the United States since there are many problems attributed to underage drinking. The policy makers should consider other policies that will control the effect of underage drinking and adult drinking since the adults are also part of the drinking problem. Despite the controversies existing about the policy, the US federal government should develop a policy to ensure that the minimum drinking age limit is effective in order to save the US youth who are expected to be the future leaders.
Lovett, Kenneth. (2006). Let Kids Start Drinking At 18: Brooklyn Pol. The New York Post, May 1, 2006.
Mosher, C. J. & Akins, S (2007) Drugs and drug policy: the control of consciousness alteration. California: the University of California
O'Donnell, M. A. (1985). Research on drinking locations of alcohol-impaired drivers: Implications for prevention policies. J Public Health Policy. pp 510-525.
The US Federal Government (2000, October 13) TITLE 23, U.S.C.—HIGHWAYS. Retrieved on 11 August 2012, from http://epw.senate.gov/title23.pdf
Wagenaar, A.C. & Toomey, T.L. (2002). Effects of Minimum Drinking Age Laws: Review and Analyses of the Literature from 1960to 2000, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Supplement. 14, pp. 206-225.