Pro & Con Quotes: Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated:
“Alcohol is the drug of choice among America’s adolescents, used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs… [T]here are 10.1 million underage drinkers in the United States… 39% of current 8th graders, 58% of 10th graders, 72% of 12th graders, and 85% of college students have tried alcohol.
Particularly worrisome among adolescents is the high prevalence of binge drinking… Underage drinkers consume, on average, 4 to 5 drinks per occasion about 5 times a month. By comparison, drinkers age 26 and older consume 2 to 3 drinks per occasion, about 9 times a month. Underage drinking is a leading contributor to death from injuries, which are the main cause of death for people under age 21. Each year, approximately 5,000 persons under the age of 21 die from causes related to underage drinking. These deaths include about 1,600 homicides and 300 suicides.
Alcohol also plays a significant role in risky sexual behavior and increases the risk of physical and sexual assault. Among college students under age 21, 50,000 experience alcohol-related date rape, and 43,000 are injured by another student who has been drinking.”-
National Institutes of Health, “Underage Drinking” report.nih.gov (accessed Jan. 26, 2015):
Todd Rutherford (D), South Carolina State Representative and Democrat House Minority Leader, who filed a bill on Nov. 10, 2021 to lower South Carolina’s MLDA to 18, stated:
“This is a personal freedom issue. If you are old enough to fight for our country, if you’re old enough to vote, if you’re old enough to sign on thousands of dollars of students loans for a college education, then you are old enough to have a drink.
Now is the time to do this. Between the existing state budget surplus, all the money that Joe Biden has sent us, and the economic growth that will come as a result, we can afford to do this. Rather than criminalize adults for doing something that is otherwise legal, we can show the rest of the country that there is a better way.”-
Bethany Fowler, “State Rep. Todd Rutherford Wants to Lower SC Drinking Age to 18,” wnct.com, Nov. 10, 2021
Jeffrey Tucker, Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), stated:
“What good would lowering the drinking age do? It would put an end to the perverse culture of secretiveness and abuse that has grown up around underage drinking. It would allow bars and restaurants to become ‘safe spaces’ for college-age students to drink and Uber home if they need to. Proponents will undoubtedly also emphasize the revenue gains for the state that would come from legalization.
But the longer-term gains would be cultural. We could begin to foster a more European-style culture of drinking that promotes responsibility and civilized sobriety. People are more likely to act like adults if you treat them as adults. Prohibition has promoted a horrible childishness with terrible results for everyone…
No, lowering the drinking age would not create utopia, and it does introduce a different set of problems. The difference is that these problems can be dealt with in the same way that society deals with other problems: family, education, cultural change, liability, and institutional supervision. Society can’t even begin to deal with the problems of youth drinking as long as it exists in dark, hidden corners. The national drinking age has had terrible consequences. As with Prohibition, it’s time we admit it and move on, into the light.”-
Jeffrey Tucker, “3 States Consider Lowering the Drinking Age,” fee.org, Jan. 11, 2016
Abigail R. Hall-Blanco, Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Tampa, and Anna Wavrin, student at the University of Tampa, stated:
“Prohibiting young people from consuming alcohol doesn’t stop them from drinking. But it does make drinking much less safe. Instead of drinking at a bar, for example, students drink secretly in dorm rooms or at clandestine parties, where they are much less likely to be supervised and where drinks spiked with drugs are much more likely. If someone overindulges or becomes ill, their friends are less likely to seek medical and other assistance. Why? Because underage drinking is illegal, and calls for help risk self-incrimination.
Moreover, banning the sale of alcohol to people under 21 is certain to encourage binge drinking… Since most college students are unable to buy their own alcohol, they have friends, family members, or even strangers buy it for them. But these people are not always available. This lack of a reliable supply makes young drinkers are more likely to overindulge when alcohol is available.
Lowering the drinking age would help mitigate or reverse these effects. With a reliable supply, young drinkers would have less incentive to binge. And when binging did occur, they would be more likely to seek help.
Besides being ineffective, the drinking laws are incredibly costly. In 2005 the consequences of the underage drinking (missed work, healthcare costs, etc.) spurred by current policy cost taxpayers $60.3 billion. The U.S. government also spends millions of dollars every year enforcing these ineffective policies.”-
Abigail R. Hall-Blanco and Anna Wavrin, “Lower the Legal Drinking Age,” newsday.com, Jan. 3, 2017
Camille Paglia, Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts, stated:
“The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, passed by Congress 30 years ago this July, is a gross violation of civil liberties and must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust that young Americans can vote, marry, enter contracts and serve in the military at 18 but cannot buy an alcoholic drink in a bar or restaurant. The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Congress was stampeded into this puritanical law by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who with all good intentions were wrongly intruding into an area of personal choice…
Now that marijuana regulations have been liberalized in Colorado, it’s time to strike down this dictatorial national law. Government is not our nanny…
What this cruel 1984 law did is deprive young people of safe spaces where they could happily drink cheap beer, socialize, chat and flirt in a free but controlled public environment.”-
Camille Paglia, “The Drinking Age Is Past Its Prime,” time.com, Apr. 23, 2014
Gabrielle Glaser, author and independent journalist, stated:
“Return the drinking age to 18 — and then enforce the law. The current system, which forbids alcohol to Americans under 21, is widely flouted, with disastrous consequences. Teaching people to drink responsibly before they turn 21 would enormously enhance public health. Now, high school and college kids view dangerous binge drinking as a rite of passage.
The current law, passed in all 50 states in the 1980s, was intended to diminish the number of traffic deaths caused by young drunk drivers. It has succeeded in that — but tougher seatbelt and D.U.I. rules have contributed to the decrease, too. Raising the drinking age hasn’t reduced drinking — it’s merely driven it underground, to the riskiest of settings: unsupervised high school blowouts and fraternity parties that make ‘Animal House’ look quaint. This age segregation leads the drinking away from adults, who could model moderation.”-
Gabrielle Glaser, “Return the Drinking Age to 18, and Enforce It,” nytimes.com, Feb. 10, 2015
The Amethyst Initiative, a coalition of over 100 university presidents and chancellors seeking to reopen the drinking age debate, stated:
“It’s time to rethink the drinking age… Twenty-one is not working.
A culture of dangerous, clandestine ‘binge-drinking’—often conducted off-campus—has developed. Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students. Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer. By choosing to use fake IDs, students make ethical compromises that erode respect for the law.
We call upon our elected officials:
To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age [and] to invite new ideas about the best ways to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol.”-
The Amethyst Initiative, “Statement,” Amethyst Initiative website (accessed Jan. 26, 2016)
The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA) stated:
“One of the most brutal hypocrisies of ageism manifests itself during times of war when we ask young men and women to put their lives on the line for the defense of freedom either here or abroad. This noble notion turns foul when we realize how many of America’s soldiers lack the very freedom they risk their lives for and remain second class citizens. Anti-youth politicians disrespect individuals under 21 by calling them immature children, incapable of being trusted with the right to drink legally. These young people under 21 are not immature children; they are proud American soldiers, many of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”-
The National Youth Rights Association (NYRA), “Support our Troops, Lower the Drinking Age” youthrights.org (accessed Jan. 26, 2016)
Choose Responsibility, a nonprofit organization advocating legal changes that would allow 18-20 year-old adults to purchase, possess and consume alcoholic beverages, stated:
“Legal Age 21 has failed utterly at its goal of protecting young people from the dangers of excessive alcohol use. To cite an alarming statistic from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth: 96% of the alcohol drunk by 15-20 year-olds is consumed when the drinker is having five or more drinks at a time…
Since Legal Age 21, less young people are drinking, but those who choose to drink are drinking more. Young peoples’ drinking is moving to the extremes: between 1993 and 2001, 18-20 year-olds showed the largest increase in binge drinking episodes. This trend should serve as a call to action for parents, educators, and lawmakers, for while moderate consumption represents little harm to young people and may even be psychologically beneficial, excessive and abusive consumption-binge drinking-spells disastrous consequences for our nation’s youth.”-
Choose Responsibility, “Legal Age 21, Myths and Realities” Choose Responsibility website (accessed Jan. 26, 2016)
Prevention Action Alliance, a nonprofit with the “mission of leading healthy communities in the prevention of substance misuse and the promotion of mental health wellness,” stated:
“Alcohol is zealously marketed, easily obtained, inexpensive and existing laws are not consistently enforced. Combine these factors with a widespread belief that alcohol is a benign drug, creates fun, is sexy and positively defines one’s social status, and it becomes a pervasive force in culture; one that is very seductive to youth. High-risk drinking and alcohol abuse are complex problems that no one strategy can remedy, but the higher MLDA is one effective approach.
A small number of vocal individuals are proposing that the drinking age be lowered from 21 to 18 based on a belief that abusive and high-risk drinking by youth in our society would be dramatically curtailed by simply adopting the lower drinking age and providing alcohol education.
The facts do not support their argument…. At least 50 peer-reviewed MLDA studies concur that a higher minimum legal drinking age is effective in preventing alcohol-related deaths and injuries among youth. When the MLDA has been lowered, injury and death rates increase, and when the MLDA is increased, death and injury rates decline. Additionally, evidence shows that while many youths under 21-years-old still consume alcohol, they drink less and experience fewer alcohol-related injuries and deaths when the legal age is 21.”-
Prevention Action Alliance, “Retaining 21 as the Minimum Legal Drinking Age,” preventionactionalliance.org (accessed Sep. 7, 2022)
The Centers for Disease Control stated:
The age 21 MLDA saves lives and improves health…. States that increased the legal drinking age to 21 saw a 16% median decline in motor vehicle crashes…. After all states adopted an age 21 MLDA, drinking during the previous month among persons aged 18 to 20 years declined from 59% in 1985 to 40% in 1991. Drinking among people aged 21 to 25 also declined significantly when states adopted the age 21 MLDA, from 70% in 1985 to 56% in 1991….
There is also evidence that the age 21 MLDA protects drinkers from alcohol and other drug dependence, adverse birth outcomes, and suicide and homicide…. Excessive drinking contributes to more than 3,900 deaths among people below the age of 21 in the U.S. each year. Underage drinking cost the U.S. economy $24 billion in 2010. More than 90% of the alcohol consumed by those under age 21 is consumed by binge drinkers (defined as 5 or more drinks per occasion for boys; 4 or more drinks per occasion for girls).”-
Centers for Disease Control, “Age 21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age,” cdc.gov, Apr. 19, 2022
“The important relationship of alcohol use and motor vehicle crashes involving youth is also highlighted by the fact that after the legal drinking age was changed uniformly to 21 years across the United States, the number of motor vehicle fatalities in individuals younger than 21 years decreased significantly.25 Since 1998, every state has enacted laws establishing a lower BAC for drivers younger than 21 years, referred to as “zero tolerance laws.” These laws are important because young people who drive after consuming any amount of alcohol pose risk to themselves and others. These laws are also estimated to have reduced alcohol-involved fatal crashes among inexperienced drivers by 9% to 24%….
Of note, higher minimum legal drinking ages in the United States have been associated with lower youth suicide rates.”-
Sheryl A. Ryan, et al., “Alcohol Use by Youth,” publications.aap.org, July 2019
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, stated:
“Adolescents and young adults are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol. Alcohol affects the development of the brain, which continues to form and mature throughout adolescence. Young people also have a propensity to combine high-risk drinking with other high-risk activities, increasing the potential for accidental injury both to themselves and to others. The harmful effects of alcohol on young people raises questions about the adequacy of current policies in appropriately curbing access to and use of alcohol by youth…
A review of the empirical research from 1960 to 2000 shows that almost 60 per cent of high-quality studies undertaken concluded that a higher minimum purchase age for alcohol was associated with reduced road traffic accidents. None found the opposite. This well-documented relationship strongly implies that increasing the minimum purchase age for alcohol can potentially save lives by reducing the incidence of road traffic accidents among young drivers, not to mention the long-term impact of serious injury.”-
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, “The Royal Australasian College of Physicians and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Alcohol Policy,” ranzcp.org, Mar. 2016
Buddy T, the pseudonym of a founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee, stated:
“The problem with the arguments for lowering the legal drinking age is it is simply not in the best interest of the public’s safety to do so. Underage drinkers are a danger to themselves and others, especially on the highways.
The drinking age was first lowered to 18 in many states back in the Vietnam War era. The country was asking thousands of its young men to fight and die for their country on foreign soil, so the popular thinking was, ‘How can we ask them to die for their country and not let them have a drink if they want one?’ But the lower drinking age begins to take a toll on the nation’s highways.
The number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities began to rise at alarming rates and a high percentage of those involved young drivers. Congress again put pressure on the states to raise the drinking age because of this startling increase in highway deaths, and the age-21 Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) was universally adopted nationwide as of July 1, 1988.-
Buddy T., “The Debate about Lowering the Drinking Age,” verywellmind.com, Mar. 11, 2021
Tamika C.B. Zapolski, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, stated:
“[L]owering the drinking age would be harmful in two ways. First, young people, those most likely to be harmed from drinking, will have greater access to alcohol. Second, lowering the drinking age may lead to lowered perception of risk. When perception of risk from a particular substance decreases, prevalence rates tend to increase.
If the perception of risk is increased, then drinking quantity and frequency may decrease. For example, my colleagues and I found that compared to Caucasians, African-Americans tend to report later initiation to alcohol, lower rates of use, engage in less heavy drinking and show slower increases in rates of drinking across adolescence and young adulthood. These racial differences may be in part because perception of risk is stronger among African-American parents and peers, and they consider alcohol more harmful than their white counterparts.”-
Tamika C.B. Zapolski, “Keep the Drinking Age High,” nytimes.com, Feb. 10, 2015
Christopher S. Carpenter, PhD, Professor of Economics at Vanderbilt University, in a Feb. 10, 2015 New York Times article, “Current Drinking Age of 21 Is Working,” available at nytimes.com, stated:
“[M]inimum legal drinking age of 21 is working. Alcohol consumption jumps sharply exactly at age 21 and remains elevated (i.e., more than a one-time birthday-related drinking celebration). Deaths jump sharply exactly at age 21 by about 9 percent and remain elevated. Arrests jump sharply exactly at age 21 and remain elevated. And hospitalizations jump sharply exactly at age 21 and remain elevated… Numerous policies and proposals have been put forth to address the troubling profile of excessive alcohol use by young people. Many of these need more research to demonstrate their effectiveness on a broad population-wide scale, but a minimum legal drinking age of 21 is not one of them.”-
Christopher S. Carpenter, “Current Drinking Age of 21 Is Working,” nytimes.com, Feb. 10, 2015
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) stated:
“Many activities have ages of initiation… The age limit for alcohol is based on research which shows that young people react differently to alcohol. Teens get drunk twice as fast as adults, but have more trouble knowing when to stop. Teens naturally overdo it and binge more often than adults. Enforcing the legal drinking age of 21 reduces traffic crashes, protects young people’s maturing brains, and keeps young people safer overall….
European countries have worse problems than America does, as far as binge drinking and drinking to intoxication. Studies show that Europe has more underage drunkenness, injury, rape, and school problems due to alcohol. Since alcohol is more available there, it actually increases the proportion of kids who drink in Europe…. In fact, the earlier someone begins drinking, the more likely they are to be alcohol dependent in later life. More than 40 percent of individuals who start drinking before the age of 13 will develop alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. Ninety-five percent of the 14 million people who are alcohol dependent began drinking before the legal age of 21.”-
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), “Why 21? Addressing Underage Drinking” and “Myths and Facts about the 21 Minimum Drinking Age,” madd.org (accessed Jan. 26, 2016)
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