If Twenty Is The New Ten, Then Eighteen Is the New Eight…

And do I want my eighteen year old who is as mature as an eight year old drinking alcohol legally?  Hmmm?

If you haven’t already heard, there are several states in the U.S. looking into legally lowering the drinking age to eighteen from the current twenty-one.

Proponents of this argument feel teenagers who are allowed to vote and fight for their country should also be allowed to drink alcohol legally.

Opponents cite binge drinking by minors who increasingly turn to hard liquor as enough proof minors are too irresponsible to begin drinking at such a young age.

However some say even though the drinking age was made twenty-one with the best of intentions, it has had one of the worst outcomes.  Naysayers feel underage drinking has been pushed underground into hiding, heightening its risks, where there has been loss of control and monitoring by responsible individuals.

But why weaken a law that saves lives?

Statistics have shown fewer alcohol related fatalities have been reported since 1984.  At that time, all states had to raise their drinking age to twenty-one or face losing 10% of their federal highway funding money.

So did the law keep those under twenty-one from drinking?  Not really.

A federal government survey on Drug Use and Health done in 2005 found, 85% of 20-year-old Americans reported they used alcohol.

Yes, the United States does have the oldest drinking age in the world.  Most nations have a law allowing sixteen or eighteen year olds to partake in alcohol consumption while others have no drinking age at all.

And yes, binge drinking by eighteen to twenty year olds might slow down if alcohol became legal at a younger age.

But since the drinking age is not federally mandated and can be different from state to state, will teens be crossing state lines to buy alcohol putting them more at risk for an increase in traffic-related-alcohol-deaths?

And of course there is always the argument about the adolescent brain not being fully mature and that the consumption of alcohol seriously damages the development process.

But even with all the pros and cons, does our country just need to make a decision?  The decision being, at what age are you an adult?

If you are not responsible enough to be an adult until the age of twenty-one then should you be able vote, serve in the military, be considered an adult in a court of law, be able to marry or enter into binding contracts until the age of twenty-one?

I just don’t know.

I feel the 13% reduction in alcohol-related-deaths from drunk driving is a good enough reason to keep the drinking age at twenty-one. 

However, having to defend this country at the age of eighteen and to not be considered an adult in regards to alcohol consumption is also completely absurd to me.

I just don’t know what the right answer is, and I agree with both sides to some extent.

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  1. Dee 1

    This is a tough one. Personally, I don’t think 18 year olds have any business going to war.

    I have a 5 year old who will one day be 18, and if I had my way he wouldn’t be allowed to drink or drive until he’s twenty five.

  2. Cathy here in Portugal I didn’t even know we had a legal drinking age until recently. Apparently there’s a law but no one really cares. The legal age here is 16, but I bought my dad beers and wine as a child, nobody will ask you for ID and we don’t have also a limit hour to buy alcohol (like in Spain or UK). Drinking alchool with moderation is seen as a natural thing, this does not create a curiosity around alcohol and people as don’t have the need to do anything undercover tend to not have beeing abusive with it. Does it make sense? I lived in the US, UK and Spain and I can honestly tell you that Portugal with all it’s openess about it is the country I fell has less problems. Of course we do have some, and I’m not saying this is the most correct thing to do, but hey apearently works for us.

  3. This is an area that I wish was black and white. However, as you say, under age drinking is NOT underage for joining the U.S. military, or driving, or having an abortion…all of which seem to me to be very major life altering and shattering decisions.

    Our government does not seem to err on the side of common sense or what is really best for all, so I just throw my hands up in the air and pray for wisdom from God and freedom , nay, protection, from a government that seems hell bent on idiocy. What more can I say ? Very thought provoking Cathy….love the eclectic blog…food for the body and food for thought ! KathyB.

  4. HoneyB 4

    I work at a university and I have to say, the drinking age of 21 does not stop the kids. I have a son who turned 21 last September and I know the drinking age did not stop him before he turned 21. I am not an advocate of drinking until you can no longer see straight for anyone (no matter how old you are) but I do also feel that if we can send our 18 year old children off to fight for our country, then if they want a beer or other alcoholic beverage, it should be their choice. The university I work at is one of the universities that have joined in on requesting that the drinking age be lowered. I support the decision of our college president.

  5. Philly 5

    Being a parent to a 17 year old and a 20 yr old, I say keep it at 21 !!!
    My daughter has 4 days and counting till she turns 21 !!

  6. I’ll have to agree with you Cathy. If your old enough for one, why not the other? Or visa, versa. If an 18 yr old is not mature enough to make the right decision about alcohol, then why do we think he is mature enough to make the right decision on the front lines?

  7. melly~ 7

    when my husband was in the military you could be served on base even under 21. I certainly think if you’re ready to die for your country you should have a beer if you want!

    I agree with your concerns Cathy. And honestly, I just think it will make it easier on the kids, no one else. And who’d want to do that?! ;)
    When I was growing up, kids who were 18 would go up to Canada (where the legallimit was lower) to buy booze. So yes, kids will be crossing state lines if neighboring states have a lower limit.

    It’s a tough call. I know 30 year olds who can’t handle their liquor so…

    too much thinking without my java!

  8. Laura 8

    as the parent of a 20 yr old and a 16 yr old I have of course very conflicted thoughts on this subject… it drives me insane that my son at age 19 can pay his hard earned money to go to the police academy and become a police officer he can defend you and come to your aid when you need help but until he is 21 I have to go buy the bullets for his police issued GUN.

    I dont approve of him drinking but when he is living and working a mans job he should be treated as a man in all areas of his life.

    Same goes with the military (i live in a military town) and i can tell you from what i see here being under 21 does not slow down or stop the drinking it does cause it to go into hiding… and I am fairly certian that is as bad or worse than having it legal.

    as for drinking nad driving… NO ONE should ever drink and drive but thats just my opinion… not one little drink should they have before getting behind the wheel.

    Just my 0.02 :)

  9. I have always felt this was wrong. Whether you lower the drinking age or raise the age to vote and serve in the military, it should be the same standard across the board. (Personally, I kind of like the idea of raising the age to serve in the military and making it retroactive since ds leaves for boot camp in a little more than a week.) The issue of maturity will never be the same for everyone. There are some 18 year olds who are more mature and responsible than certain 50 year olds. We have to decide what age we consider a person responsible for their own life and actions and then stick with it.

    Parents need to do a better job of raising their kids toward the end of becoming responsible adults as well. I wonder how many kids become irresponsible young adults because they have not been held responsible for their actions enough and have not had enough expected of them as they were growing up. In this country it seems we try to prolong childhood too much. We’re afraid of letting go or we’re too busy and so we don’t properly equip our children with the tools for responsible decision making and life as an adult. The results are evident on college campuses across America.

    I have some questions about the statistics too. “Statistics have shown fewer alcohol related fatalities have been reported since 1984.” Is this across the board or in fatalities involving drinkers 18-20? What are the statistics in countries with a lower drinking age or no drinking age? I’ve always heard that there is not so much of a problem in those countries and that they learn to drink responsibly and in moderation. Getting plastered is not such an attractive option as it isn’t a way to rebel. I’ve never seen any statistics on that, but I’ve heard it said often by people who have visited or are from some of these countries. It would be interesting to see actual numbers.

    We allow our kids to have an occasional drink at home. We are not ignorant to the fact that our oldest two teenagers have almost certainly been to drinking parties and been drunk. Hopefully we have taught them to be responsible. They have always been told that they can call us at any time if they need a ride or if any of their friends need a ride. I really do believe the number of times they have been drunk has been few and I know my oldest is often the one looking out for his friends. This is the way dh and I were both raised and we were both pretty responsible in high school. I was always the designated driver and always making sure friends who drove were okay to drive.

  10. Marcy 10

    Cathy, I too go a bit along both sides. I had to wait till 21 to legally drink, I did however drink once or twice underage but I did not binge drink. Alcohol has never had a big pull on me and now at 37, I haven’t drank ANY form of alcohol in about 6 yrs or so…I just hope they make up their minds.

  11. I am on the fence on this one too. Do the right thing for your children, and hopefully they will heed your advice. And pray.;)

  12. susan 12

    There was a time when the drinking age was less than 21, and I think that made it easier for even younger kids to get a hold of the liquor. Most high school kids don’t hang with 21 year olds, but they do hang with 18 year olds. I think the drop in drinking related deaths wasn’t just for the 18-20 year olds but also for those younger than 18.

    The soldiers can get it on base, and those that are out of the country can get it.

    There are enough drunks on the road, lets not make it more available to younger and younger kids.

  13. Barbie with a T 13

    I agree with you 100%. BUT…What is wrong with serving your country and voting before you can drink legally? That is the age and the circumstance we need sober young people!!

  14. Tis a tough one Noble. I think it is weird that the choices are either 18 or 21. Why not 19 or 20?

  15. Steph 15

    This is an issue I’ve always been unsure about as well. I’ve seen more drinking and driving related accidents because I live really close to the border of Windsor, Ontario. Everyone starts going over there to drink when they turn 19. Which, for this area, I think it just makes things worse.

  16. I don’t know what the right answer is–but personally, I’m happy if they keep it at 21. I do agee that it’s absurd that 18 yr. can go to war but not drink but I still don’t think that warrants lowering the drinking age. Very hard to know what’s right!!

  17. ntsc 17

    If you are old enough to fight and die for your country then you are an adult.

    The very artifical age limit in the US is a result of temperance movements and has no basis in logic. If a teen is taught to drink in a reasonable fashion, as my parents taught me, most won’t drive drunk. And those that do probably have parents who do.

    I think that the figure of a 13% reduction falls in to Mark Twain’s definition of statistics. Most states already had a 21 drinking age, so I doubt there is any correlation between the perhaps 20% who had the drinking age increased and the 13% death decrease. The latter can be attributed to police random checks.

  18. I don’t believe in partial rights for 18 year olds. I support lowering the drinking age to 18 and allowing kids to become “full adults” when they reach their 18th birthday.
    It isn’t laws that keep kids safe, it’s the nurturing of their parents, it’s the standards, expectations and examples set by the people in their lives.
    When our first two were underage, they knew that IF they drank or the people they were with drank and someone impaired were about to drive, they were either to A)stay put until they were sober, call us and let us know they were safe or B) if they had to leave, they were to call us at any time night or day and we would come fetch them with no scolding until the next day. They each used the emergency contact system once. They knew what to do and it helped them to make good decisions. Common sense is what is needed here, not laws that don’t prohibit the behaviors.

  19. I don’t think that you can base the 13% decrease soley on the change of drinking age. Since that time, we’ve tightened the laws about open containers, what the legal blood alcohol limit is and we’ve done more to educate people on the dangers of drinking and driving.

  20. Leah Q 20

    I agree with you here, that both sides are correct – and it is important to save lives – recently with the price of gas being so high, that has in turned helped save lives since there are less cars on the road…

    I can recall when at 18, I was still able to drink legally, they then up’d it to 21… so I had to wait after drinking legally for almost 2 years that one year I had to wait to legally drink again – did that stop me in college? – No….just saying…

  21. Rayrena 21

    Hmmm, perhaps the drinking age should match the other standards of being an “adult” and the driving age should be raised to 21 :) I think crawling home drunk is much safer than driving.

    And I think the “developing brain” reason is a bunch of hooey. If our government cared about that they would be more careful about allowing pollutants into our air and water. Plus, they shouldn’t let 18 y/o work in chemical factories…

    I think drinking, driving, voting, becoming an adult is still a parental obligation. If I haven’t prepared, as well as I can, my kid for all the possible dangers of the choices my kid might make by the time they’re 18, I don’t they’re going to be THAT much better off by 21.

    Wine with dinner will always be part of our family landscape, as well as discussions about voting, politics, being a good friend, getting the most we can from work and school, etc. It’s no guarantee that my kid will make good decisions but I hope what we do will have more influence than a law.

  22. Candy 22

    As the mother of a recently-turned-18 year old, I am as confused by the issue as you are.

    I certainly understand the frustration at being able to die for your country in Iraq, but you can’t have a beer when you’ve been out in the dust all day. That just doesn’t make a bit of sense to me.

    I don’t know the statistics for the reduction in drunk driving accidents. Is that 13% reduction only reflective of drivers under the age of 21, or is it possible that with the penalties so much stiffer, adult drunk drivers have stopped doing it as well?

    I can’t help but think about other countries whose children grow up with wine at the table, and who dont’ have our problems. Is it a forbidden fruit kind of thing? Or do they simply have no chance to build a tolerance and when they start drinking in college they simply cannot handle it?

    I don’t think we’re ever going to solve this one.

  23. I think the drinking age of 21 encourages illegal drinking and especially driving-kids go out to the park or the field or the mountain to drink instead of drinking responsibly. I think that if you want to prevent drinking and driving then the laws need to be clearer. Saying that a person can have a drink and still be ok to drive, but 2 drinks they might not be, unless they weigh over a certain amount. There is too much ambiguity, and people think they are “fine” when they aren’t.
    Unfortunately, this country is known for it’s excess, it is hard to teach people to drink (or eat) responsibly when your margarita is served in a fish bowl (or a 5 lb. steak is on the menu). I think the answer is better education, but if the parents don’t drink responsibly, how can they teach their kids to? I have a 20 year old step son and a 16 year old step daughter and I would much rather teach them to drink a glass of wine with dinner than have their friends teach them to chug a 12 pack at a party. I worry about some of their friends more than I worry about them because it has never been a big deal.
    Maybe everyone should have to have a license to drink, like a license to drive. You have to have education and take a quiz before you can buy alcohol and if you are irresponsible (drinking and driving, drunk in public, calling ex-boyfriends at 2:30 am) you can have your booze license taken away.
    There really is no easy answer!

  24. Suzette 24

    Welllll….IMHO, drinking is a privilege. Voting is a right. Big difference.

    My daughter was 19 when she entered the Navy, and she did just fine without drinking. She is fiercely patriotic, and that was all she cared about.

    I am one who thinks the drinking age should be RAISED. We may be living longer, but our young ‘uns seem to be getting younger. Not sure that makes sense, but I see a lot of irresponsible drinking among those just barely old enough to drink. Maybe that would be the case no matter WHERE the drinking age is set.

    Of course…*I* managed to drink at 15 or 16, but I was a VERY bad girl! :)

  25. I, too, can see both sides of this argument. I do feel that if you are considered an adult at 18 for some purposes, then you should be for all purposes, including being able to have a drink if you want to. The fact is that regardless of the legal drinking age, these kids are going to drink anyway. When something is forbidden, it immediately becomes more attractive and desirable. If the age were lowered, maybe it wouldn’t be such a thrill for young people and they would drink less.

  26. There is no easy answer to this.

    One argument I can see for keeping the drinking age at 21 is that it will be easier for high schoolers to look 18 than it will be for them to look 21 and alcohol will be easier for younger and younger kids to obtain.

    Does making fruit forbidden make it sweeter? Do kids want to drink because it’s illegal, or do they just really enjoy being drunk?

    When I was in high school and college, kids drank. They drank when and where they could get away with it. They liked it. They got away with it. But that’s all they did. They drank.

    These days I’m hearing that it’s not just about alcohol. Kids seem desperate to get high any way they could. My high school and college had stoners and kids whom I feared were on their way to major problems, but it was standard alcohol and drug issues.

    Now I’m hearing about kids trying just about ANYTHING. When I was a kid, I didn’t know any kids who abused chemical inhalants. No one sniffed glue. It’s all the rage now. Kids are swiping bottles of vanilla to get drunk (I didn’t know anyone who could stomach the taste of straight vanilla when I was a kid – you really do have to want a buzz!). Now I’m hearing about drinking bottles of Robitussin because it has a hallucinatory effect in large doses.

    Sometimes letting kids drink doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

  27. Greg 27

    If the motivation to set the drinking age is simply a reduction in alcohol-related deaths, then why not raise the drinking age to 25? A drinking age limit is really a deterrent and not a “limit”, and should be treated that way.

  28. Marjie 28

    When I was in college, and the drinking age was 18, many people seemed to “get over” binge drinking faster, because it wasn’t “forbidden fruit”, IMHO. I feel that if children are given a glass of wine, for example, at holiday dinners, it’s no longer a mystery, and therefore, less appealing. But is alcohol worse than illicit drugs, or misuse of prescriptions? Not in my book. There are a million opinions here, and everyone knows theirs is the right one. So I try to stay out of it.

  29. Trisha 29

    This is an issue which I think will be debated forever! I think the laws do save lives but also make under age drinking seem more exciting because it is illegal. The forbidden fruit thing. Human nature is just weird that way. I don’t know what the solution is – other than people really understanding the dangers of alcohol (in excess) and of drunk driving. Educate your kiddos, people!

  30. You have great timing as we were just talking about age appropriatness for all these things. I personally do not feel at 16 teens should drive and that 18 it too young to go to war. I have been spending time with my 15 yr old step son and nephew and let me tell you there are plenty of days that they think like a 5 yr old. To me drinking age should stay at 21 as I am not sure that to many teens are mature enough to drink responsibly. Tough issue and I see arguments for both sides that is for sure. I may be more leaning towards later for some of these things rather than sooner only because I am facing daily the mental fitness of a 15 yr old boys and based on what I see they are far from mature enough to drink – get behind the wheel of a car or go to war.

  31. Misty 31

    Well, my opinion on this topic is to choose neither of the 2 & make it against the law to consume alochol period. BUT, that will never happen so I will say that if I had to choose, it would be to keep the 21 drinking age. Far too many deaths are caused by alochol. Far too many families are torn apart because of alochol.

  32. Laura 32

    I am completely in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18. I don’t know how you can lay the entire reduction in drunk driving at that law’s feet considering the effect that M.A.D.D. and other public service announcements have made. We live in a different world now from when the age was increased. And ultimately I must confess I don’t care if it does reduce drunk driving (as much as I abhor it) because telling some boy he can carry a gun and die for this country before he ever legally got a sip of beer is insane.

  33. This is such a tough one – the age in Canada is 18 in most provinces and 19 in a few (including mine) and 21 does seem crazy to me in light of the fact that you can go off to fight a war at 18 in your country…

  34. krysta 34

    the drinking age is not federally mandated BUT if the state does have a lower drinking age they do not get their federal highway funding. other than that i see both sides of the arguement but i do feel americans are way too uptight about many things and i feel many european countries have some things in priority.

  35. If it was up to me, they’d raise the legal limit to age 30.

    I’m just mostly anti-alcohol except in cooking :)

    Now, given that you are planning on having a successful vineyard, that might raise eyebrows.

    I think there is a difference though.

    Drinking in moderation, knowing your limits and respecting them, acting responsibly and intelligently — all those are things that are important, and make wine, beer and hard liquor no big deal.

    It’s when those common sense behaviors aren’t followed that disastrous problems can result.
    M.A.D.D. certainly believes this.

    Kids just aren’t mature yet at 21. Oh, I know they THINK they are – but they aren’t…

    Better safe than sorry. Lowering the drinking age would be a disaster for the kids that already party too hearty.

  36. Whitney 36

    As a 24 year old that went to college in recent times, I think it should be lowered to 18 (or even to 15/16 like Europe). European countries are smart. They allow their families to teach kids how to drink responsibly BEFORE they learn to drive. We do it backwards.

    Also, I can say from personal experience. I drank 2 or 3 times in HS but my freshmen year of college I drank way more. This is the culture of college and the fact that Juniors/Senior will be 21 and can buy for the younger kids. It is dangerous when an 18 is at a part and knows she needs to chug on the bottle of vodka because she doesn’t know if it will still be around in 20 mins. When you buy your own booze, you think about how much you paid for it, the fact that it is yours and that you aren’t breaking the law, so you drink less. I drink way more reasonably now that I can purchase booze myself and not have to rely on my older friends.

    As a law student it seems absurd to me that you can serve drinks as a watress/bar tender, and be legally reasaonble in a tort action if the person you served goes and drives drunk but you yourself can’t take a sip and be reasonable for your own actions. It makes no sense!

  37. i think, in an ideal world, age should just be a number an not an indicator of maturity. i think it’s silly to say anyone is ready for anything because they have hot a certain age. they should be tested – on emotional, developmental, social, psychological levels – before being allowed to vote, drink, drive, march off to war…even enter the next grade at school!

    half the problems in school is that we assume that because a kid is of a certain age, they are at the same levels as everyone else that age, so we get classrooms of 8-year-olds who are nothing alike, but are all expected to learn the same things at the same pace with the same styles.

    meh! one of my biggest pet peeves is curriculum and pedagogy, and your post got me going – but i see it as a very similar thing as your drinking post. we shouldn’t have all-consuming rules, but an individualized society, as controversial as that may be.

  38. Kristen 38

    I am in the same boat with you on this one… torn as to which side I fall on. I was a good girl… didn’t drink until I was 21, even while all of my friends around me had partaken at a much earlier age. It’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out, won’t it?

  39. Corinne 39

    I live in a Canadian province where the drinking age is 18. Personally, I agree that at whatever age is ‘decided’ that a person is an adult should be consistent (whatever that may be).
    I did not see a large problem with binge drinking with my friends 18… of course, this also coincides with the age at which most enter university / college…. and of course, some will have problems with people pushing limits REGARDLESS of age.
    I worked in the US for a summer when I was 20. It was odd for me to have this restriction when at home i had been able to drink for 2 years. Here I wasn’t trusted? As mentioned above – i could vote… i could make decisions regarding what career i would be beginning… and start a family if i wished … but i couldn’t buy a beer?
    What struck me while I was working with a group of 18 – 25 year old Americans, was that they started drinking even earlier than my friends ever did. It seems that as teenagers, the age of 21 seemed so far away to them… And alcohol too inticing. I was floored by the binge drinking and how ‘normal’ is was.
    This being said, i grew up in a family where alcohol was not regarded as an evil, or something to be feared. My parents had a glass of wine with dinner almost every night. We were taught that a person needed to show responsibility when drinking, and that under NO circumstances were we to place other lives at risk by drinking and driving. We were always told to call before ever leaving a party with someone who had been drinking, or if we had been drinking ourselves.

  40. Shelly 40

    I favor a somewhat different approach. An 18 year old who wants to drink can take an alcohol awareness class, which covers both the binge drinking issue and the driving while intoxicated issue, among other things. When you complete this class you will be issued a license to drink alcohol. Any violations, such as drinking and driving or giving alcohol to a minor, will result in a suspension of your license. Of course, if you do not want to take the class, you can wait until you are 21 to drink.

    It just seems to me that education (in this and many other matters) is the key to responsible awareness of the issue.

  41. christine 41

    i didn’t read all of the comments but doesn’t anybody remember when the drinking age was changed in 1984? It was 1984, I was 2 but I am almost positive that the rest of you were older than that. The legal drinking age was left for the states to decide and most of them chose 21 for liquor and 18 for beer, but when the Vietnam War happened, almost all of the states lowered the drinking age. Is history repeating itself or are we too caught up with drinking age legislation that we don’t see what’s really going on? Is this a big deal? Shouldn’t we, as Americans, as people, be focusing on, say, pollution, overpopulation, our national deficit, this endless war, our ineffective government, lack of social security, or our neverending path to apathy? When will we wake up? When will we decide that we have a voice to be heard? When will we stand together, not to blog about insignificant (sorry Kathy, I do love your blog. but this is such a bigger issue) things, but to stand together and fight the injustices we, as people, have endured for hundreds of years, it is time to stand up together, it is time to wake up. If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it, it looks like we’re doing a pretty good job so far.

  42. misty 42

    we’ve been having this conversation a lot in our household, as Idaho is contemplating the change. we try to raise our family with the “alcohol is a normal part of life, not special” approach. I firmly believe if kids can grow up not thinking it’s some major milestone thing, it will be less likely to inspire them into binge drinking stupidity…

  43. Teri 43

    Such a great subject Cathy. My son and most of his friends are now 18. A bunch of them (not mine) just went to Ireland and some to Germany. They drank beer when they were there with their parents because it is legal there. My son thought that was kind of funny (in a strange way) that we CAN send him to war, he CAN vote, but yet cannot be held responsible to drink. Point: None of them really thought it was that big of a deal. It was “cool”. But really, not a big deal. Back home his other friend who went to college last year, started drinking beer, he liked it (a lot) and became a bit more abusive about it, but mind you he had more family problems than all of the other friends. Point: Legalize at 18 and the ones who are going to abuse it are the same ones who are going to abuse it at 21.

    My son,and I love to discuss these type of topics and this has been one of our recent debates. We often talk about drinking responsibly and the effects of alcohol just like I would talk to him about anything else. We have seen some of his classmates crash their cars and lose their licenses due to DUI’s. We both agree that a lot of this was due to parenting and peers, mostly bad decisions.

    I completely agree with Whitney, Europe has got it right, we are backwards. Parents really do play a key role in the household when it comes to teaching your children about alcohol. Maybe this subject is overlooked here and something we need to re-evaluate.

    As for it being legal at 18 in the U.S…are we ready for that? So on the fence…

  44. Katie 44

    We could make it legal for 18 year old in the military to drink. Might actually increase enrollment.

  45. I think it would be a dumb move to lower it to 18. There are enough fatalities with the current age of 21. Maybe they should move it BACK instead of UP – to like 70. The elderly drive less. :)

  46. lauren 46

    While you give good reasons for both sides of the argument, I’m not sure how much you can trust the statistics regarding reduction of alcohol related deaths since the age increase…remember correlation does not equal causation. Plus that number does not even account for whether people under 21 are actually drinking less. Pretty much everyone I know had a parent or friend’s parent who let us drink underage. Not to mention that once a young adult goes off to college, underage drinking is unstopable (as a personal choice). As a 24 year old, I’d like to share a story about my underage drinking. I was at a private party at age 19 when police came and caught me and a few others drinking underage. The penalty? I had to show up in court. A little scary, but no big deal. They offered all first, second, and THIRD time offenders an “alcohol awareness class” instead of being changed with a crime (so nothing shows up on your record). Of course, this “class” is given by a PRIVATE ORGANIZATION which charges $300 to send us an beat up old video tape discussing the harms of underage drinking (biggest harm= punishment by authority). That’s it! So some stupid company is getting rich off this stupid law which doesn’t prevent underage drinking.

  47. Egghead 47

    I personally think that the age limit to go to war, vote and drink should all be the same, be it 18 or 21. Seems silly to have a difference. But that said, as I look at my kids who are all older than 23, I think they need a couple of years out of high school to mature some more before making these kinds of decisions. Some college and life experience on their own always helps. It seems to me that moving everything up to 21 would just help with good decision making.

  48. Allison 48

    I agree with clumbsycookie, second comment from the top. What would happen if we basically abolished a drinking age? Would people learn early on alcohol is no more exciting to binge on than cookies?

    I’m not sure a drinking age really matters. Teens drink and binge easily. But so do adults. Too many adults are just as irresponsible about drinking as kids are.

    Does a drinking age really solve anything? Or does it just makes alcohol seem more exciting simply because kids always want to do exactly what you tell them not to?

    Great topic Kathy!

  49. Chinya 49

    Why don’t we just raise the age across the board? 25 sounds good to me! I don’t think some kids are mature enough to make the decision to fight for their country, much less drink. As a parent it would kill me if my eighteen year old son or daughter came to me and said they were going to war and it would kill me if they came home drunk or if they were killed or killed someone else while driving drunk. I agree with many of the posts above, that we do the best we can as parents and hope our children will make the right decisions. Heck, I was not even allowed to obtain my license until I was eighteen! “It’s not you, it’s all the other drivers out there that I don’t trust” is what my mom always said to me.

    That being said, I got drunk a couple times before I realized alcohol was not for me and that being drunk was not the image I wanted to portray. The only difference is that I got drunk in the presence of my mom who always said, if you wanna drink or try drugs…do it at home! Not that she wanted me to do it, she just did not want me to sneak and do it in a place that was not safe. So I took her up on her offer to drink and I’m still alive. Would hate to think what would have happened if my mom was not so open.

    More then anything, what led me to stay away from alcohol was the look on my mom’s face and the guilt I felt at disappointing my mom.

  50. I was wondering what you thought about this. I think the universities that are pushing for it have a point, but I also think they’re using the shotgun approach and knocking everything out at once. When I was in college, most kids stopped drinking at 21 because I was boring. I don’t think it’s the age that’s the problem. I think it’s popular culture and that it’s cool to get wasted and fall out of nightclubs and drink yourself into rehab and then post the pictures on facebook. Most kids my age are barely out of school or still living with their parents and working crap jobs trying to be an actress or musican or moron or whatever. Until parents stop babying children and make them take responsibility for themselves at the age they’re supposed to be adults, there’s no point to having this argument.

  51. ELRA 51

    Being a mom of 18yrs old boy, I sometimes wonder what the right answer to this.
    My son, he is pretty much fascinated by red wine, the process of making wine and he loves visiting vine yard. The first time we took him to visit winery in Napa when he was 10 yrs old. He was busy taking picture, video and really listened to the lecturer. He was pretty much serious about it. When we’re visiting winery in South Africa, they offer him some to taste, but he refused and politely said that he’s not 21 yet, although occationally, when we’re on vacation overseas, will give him a little bit of red wine for dinner. He will sniff, swirl, taste then discuss the flavor with us, especially with his dad. He (not to my knowledge) seems never bother with hard liquer or beer. He, for example will order virgin Pina Colada at the restaurant. So, my point is, I think it all depend how you prepare your kid and make him or her understand the consequences!

  52. Interesting that you brought this up. I had a tinge (or cringe) of “I don’t know what” when I heard about it on the news.
    I see it from both sides. I grew up with a great respect for alcohol – the summers we spent in France, my father allowed me to have a sip of wine or two. I did run around behind their backs to drink through high school.
    In the Air Force, however, I did drink before I was twenty one. Especially overseas…in Iceland…we found that there wasn’t much else to do…besides there was some peer pressure as well, so…
    But then now that I’m older – I would be terrified to get on the road on a Friday or Saturday night after 10 PM if there was no legal age/lowered legal age…bad enough as it is!!!

  53. CORRECTION – and probably a freudian slip…
    I DID NOT RUN AROUND BEHIND THEIR BACKS…that was my point!!! Darn it…
    Because I was able to have a little wine here and there, allowed me to understand that it wasn’t all that…

  54. I’m fine with the drinking age being lowered to 18– my experience is that once alcohol was legal it wasn’t such a big thing anyway. I do think that the military shouldn’t be able to accept recruits under the age of 21. I don’t think most 18-year-olds truly understands what they’re in for when they sign up for the military.

  55. jean 55

    I find it hard to justify that 18 is the legal age of an adult yet not the legal age to drink. If you are old enough to join the army, serve your country, die for your country, you should be able to drink.

  56. Bunny 56

    i realy don’t know what the answer to this problem would be, but if your arguement in that if 18 yr olds can fight for our country they should beable to drink then fine, Let the 18 yr olds that serve in the military drink, with a special ID that will allow proof they are in the military. But I think that there’s way to much drinking going on in our armed forces to begin with. I don’t want ANY 16 yr olds or 18 yrs olds drinking in my town. I think allowing that would be to open pandora’s box, then there’s no turning back.

  57. Cheryl 57

    Personally (and I know this is idealistic, but so be it), I feel the driving, drinking, voting, sexual consent and military service ages should all be the same…whatever number that is.

    And parents (IMO) should not circumnavigate/rationalize their underage children’s participation in any illegal activity. I get very irritated with the excuse of “they’re going to do it anyway” — they might. (My children might, too) Consequences should follow.

    Think with the rapid “maturation” in technology and other areas, perhaps we should rethink all the rights and privileges we seem to grant so early with the assumption they can “handle” it. I’m not so sure they can.

    Kids don’t need to have access to any and everything they want, when they want it. Teaching a little patience and anticipation and the appropriate handling of adult/mature aspects of life might behoove all of us. :)

    (I fully realize I sound like a fuddy duddy; but it’s how I feel. Maybe 40 is the new 60 ;) )

  58. Tatiana 58

    Because I was brought up with a different culture, I see the drinking age to be unnecessary. When you have no drinking age, or no one adheres to it, you have less young adults obsessed with having it. You all want what you can’t have, or what is taboo. I think it’s a wise decision to lower the drinking age to 18. 18 year olds will have alcohol regardless of whether or not it’s legally available for them, but if they could drink somewhere like a bar where the bartender calls cabs, I don’t think it would be such a problem.

  59. Alisa 59

    This is ludicrous considering that CA just passed a new driving law. Anyone born after 1994 can not get their license until they are 18. Seriously? 21 is plenty young enough to start legally drinking. Most of us didn’t even wait that long.

  60. They lowered the age from 20 to 18 in New Zealand several years ago, citing that there would be harsher identification checking with the age being lower. I don’t think lowering the age has had any of the benefits that our government expected; the reason being is that regardless of whatever age the drinking age was set to, the younger drinkers would take their queues from the adults. Adults in New Zealand have a large binge drinking problem. You can move the age up and down whatever you like, I don’t think it’ll make the problem any worse or better.

    Though I’m with Cheryl – for simplicity’s sake, the ‘adult’ age should cover all of sexual consent, driving, drinking, voting and so forth.

    As a side note – I’m 23, and fell under the first wave of teens who came under the minimum drinking age being 18. I didn’t have my first drink until I was 21, and that was a thick creamy toblerone cocktail on my 21st birthday. That was a decision on my part because I thought I wasn’t ready(!)

  61. While I certainly don’t want my kids boozing it up at an early age, especially because they are boys and boys tend to act even stupider when drinking because there’s normally some girl around to impress, I whole-heartedly believe that our attempts at legislating morality has been disasterous. Not one instance has it worked as it was intended. Prohibition laws lead to boot legging. And when Prohibition was repelled, the underworld infastructure was well-functioning and the drug culture erupted from that.
    And, I can tell you that I drank almost daily before I was 18. My friends and I ever had a problem finding some guy just over 21 to buy beer for us. No problem at all.
    So, in short, I do think it is a terrible idea for young people often with poor judgment to drink. But, keeping it illegal makes them drink out on backroads or in vehicles.

  62. I drank at 18, 16, probably younger but I didn’t binge drink. I don’t believe that everyone that is an underage drinker is a binge-drinker.

  63. Shirley 63

    I think the drinking age should be lowered to 18. My son is 20, but soon to be 21 and I will be greatly relieved when he reaches that age. I know he’s been drinking on occasion since high school even. When we go on vacation to the Caribbean, the drinking age is always 18 and he drinks freely while there usually with us, but he doesn’t go crazy.

    I think the fact that it is forbidden does make it more appealing to the college kids and I do think more binge drinking results. I also know that kids get caught with alcohol on campus (not driving, just possession) and they suffer serious consequences (sometimes ones that screw up their futures forever) that while legal just don’t seem reasonable for the crime. And, I think statistics are never as simple or straightforward as they appear to be. I don’t believe these statistics. More kids in our area have died from drinking and driving in the last several years than ever before and our state’s laws are stricter than ever for anything related to drinking. The college administrators would not come out with this stance without great forethought and experience.

    I think back to my own youth. Yes, when I was 18 and allowed to drink, I definitely drank too much several times. I didn’t drive while drinking and I quickly learned that moderation (still while not driving) is far better for the enjoyment level and the following day. I think I, a very good kid, would have even gotten into some serious trouble in my college days if I had not been able to legally drink until 21.

    The points on other countries allowing drinking with dinner and family and not making it such a huge deal are important. I believe that approach does work and take out the mystery of it all. Plus, the kids learn the effects of alcohol while at home under mom and dad’s supervision. And while I know that some families here in the U.S. will allow their kids to have a drink every now and then, you can definitely get arrested for it. I even personally know parents who have hosted graduation parties at their home, taken away all the keys, made everyone spend the night, etc. BUT they still could have gotten arrested. I, myself, would be way too scared to do that as I’ve read about some parents in the area getting caught for just that thing. Nobody left, nobody drove, but somebody reported the parents and the legal consequences were very bad.

  64. Michigan tried lowering the drinking age to eighteen. The end result was lots more drunk fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen year olds. When it was twenty one most of those starting to drink no longer had friends in school. They gave booze to twenty year olds and ninetten year olds.
    But many of the eighteen year olds not only still had friends in lower grades but were still in High School. They passed the booze to their friends. It was a mistake.

  65. melissa 65

    I grew up on the border of Canada. Almost evey weekend we went to Canada and got hammered! If we slapped on enough make up and smiled real pretty we didn’t get carded. So I too am mixed on should the drinking age be lowered. We wern’t just going to a different state we were going to a different COUNTRY! OMG!

  66. melissa 66

    PS. Last week at The Walmarts I got carded for buying a 6 pack of Shipyard. The little punk daid that anyone under 42 has to be carded. What the **** 21- 42. That’s crazy

  67. Tracy 67

    I think the drinking age should be lowered to 18. While in college, 18-21 years olds are attending classes together, living amongst each other, and yet harmfully divided. Just personally, I think the illegal drinking is what makes it so popular. I agree with an above comment about how its not a problem in other countries because people respect alcohol and it’s not taboo. Here in the US, I feel we hold too many things too high making them ‘wrong’ and immoral and therefore drawing attention to things that are mostly commonplace and shouldn’t be an issue. I dunno, but I’m for it being lowered. I think it may get out of hand at first, but would die down and then stable out. I’m 24 and can say that from 18-21 I did mature, but honestly I feel that once over 21 you start progressing at much faster rates. Those things I did at 18, I was still doing at 21. And now, I don’t drink and couldn’t care less.

  68. Bunny 68

    P.S If you lower the age for drinking to 18 then why shouldn’t the age for buying cigarettes be lowered?? I think this is something that will be challeneged if you lower the age for drinking.

  69. Kathy from NJ 69

    During WW2 young men in their senior year of high school could join the military & receive a diploma. My husband went at age 17. He said the military wants young people because they do not yet fear death. “It will never happen to me.”

    Many years ago the legal drinking age in NY was 18, it was 21 in NJ. We would drive to NY to drink. NJ lowered the age to 18 for a few years then raised it again. Funny thing is, in NJ 18-year-olds can SERVE alcohol as waiters, bartenders, etc., but cannot drink it.

  70. Neen 70

    I spent my high school years in Switzerland, where the drinking age was sixteen. Sure, I got drunk a few times and got to experience all the unpleasantness associated with it, but I was drinking in a bar, with friend (supervised! By adults!). There was also no anxt at all about drinking in front/with your parents, so I learned to appreciate wine, cocktails, and mature drinking habits. By the time I got to college with all the dangers of binge-drinking at frats, etc., I was completely uninterested in that scene.

    Now, mind you, Switzerland doesn’t let you drive until you’re 18. Pretty smart: get all your drinking kinks out BEFORE you get behind the wheel. It would never work in the U.S. — our public transportation system simply isn’t good enough, but it really, really works there.

  71. A dilemma i would rather be unpopular and safer by keeping them from drinking as much as poossible until 21 or better yet,how about 35? Let them get almost grown up first.

  72. sassy 72

    if underaged kids want to drink, regardless of the legal drinking age, somehow, someway, the will get alcohol.

    When i was 18, a long long long long time ago, MN drinking age was 21, we simply went to WI, theirs was 18.

    I think the only thing the lowering of the legal drinking age will affect is, highway accidents, they will rise.

  73. Harry 73

    In England, the legal age for booze is 18 and has been for ever, almost. There is a problem with binge-drinking but it seems to come, not from the 18 year olds but from the early 20s. There is also a serious problem of under-age drinking but that would occur whatever the limit. Frankly, the answer is in educating the children onhow, when and how much is good. Only then will some of them be sensible when they are deemed old enough to drink, whatever country they are in.

  74. grace 74

    well, i’m 25 and i still don’t consider myself an adult. i still try to use the “immature” and “naive” card whenever i can. that said, i’m with you–if they’re old enough to send to war, they should be considered old enough to have certain rights. what a mess.

  75. Harmony 75

    It should be lowered…I do not believe any more harm will come of it..as underage drinking happens regardless. I do feel that if this were to happen that it should be country wide and not state by state.

  76. Maybe we raise everything to the age of 21? Or if you lower the age to 18, have much stricter checks on id’s and kids caught driving even a little under the influence. None of this .18 – any alcohol in the blood, and you lose your license – no 2nd chances.

  77. Dragon 77

    A legalized drinking age has never stopped kids from drinking. Reducing it to eighteen won’t stop that.

  78. Daisy 78

    Get rid of it all together. No drinking age.

    No society can lock up all the dangerous things in the world. No law can provide good judgement to people who don’t already have it.

    I think marijuana is a waste of time, and I am an ardent non-smoker. Yet, if I were given the opportunity, I would advocate that we get rid of that law, too. (Imagine the gain from being able to tax it. ;)

    Someone commented that education was important. I whole-heartedly agree. Yet, I driver’s ed classes are ridiculous, and I imagine that a alcohol ed class would be similar. Real education begins at home, and parents are too busy to educate our youth in a responsible way. They think by making a law, the are creating a reality that matches their vision… instead, they’re just dreaming…

    No drinking age would require parents to do their job. And it just might take away the reason youth obsess over over-consumption in the first place causing less alcohol-related addictions and diseases later in life.

    And this was a good comment that I had to repeat:

    “And I think the ‘developing brain’ reason is a bunch of hooey. If our government cared about that they would be more careful about allowing pollutants into our air and water. Plus, they shouldn’t let 18 y/o work in chemical factories…”

    Well said.

  79. Daisy 79

    Seriously!?! What are you, 80? I once had a job that mirrored a military job, and often my life was place in the hands of someone ten years my junior. Yes, ten years. Because they had the experience to make the decisions that needed to be made – and I didn’t have it. If I had your attitude, I’d have probably gotten myself killed. To say that you can’t make a decision for yourself until you’re 35 won’t make you unpopular because it’s not “cool.” It’ll make you unpopular because it’s not enjoyable to be around people who can’t reason.

    Sorry to be difficult, but I’m feeling fiesty today. We wonder why young people can’t make good decisions yet we won’t give them a chance to make small failures along the way so that they can learn at a reasonable pace. Like all you 80 year-olds got to do. Instead, we don’t create solutions – we just create more problems.

  80. Maria 80

    Take away the drinking age entirely. It’s all about the attitudes and atmosphere you grow up in. In France, little kids drink a little wine with meals. Alcoholism is at a lower percent. They grow up with a realistic attitude about it.

  81. tipper 81

    Very tough issue-I see both sides-but still can’t decide which to take.

  82. Flea 82

    This law has gone back and forth forever, hasn’t it? I don’t know either. But it doesn;t seem right that kids can shoot an enemy ot kill and not be able to take the edge of afterward.

  83. Leslie 83

    Thanks for your kind words on my Blog Fight issue and my video post! They are just Mean Mean people..that now wont leave me alone! Aggghhhh

  84. Interesting Cathy. My father allowed me to try alcohol under his supervision when I was under 21. I became more interested in wine (and food) because of this and less interested in drinking to get drunk. I am sure I am an exception but I believe parental involvement is more important than a set age.

  85. Debbie 85

    For me it is more about cultural influence than the actual age of 18 versus 21. I grew up in a family were drinking was not a big deal. My father always had a small glass of wine with dinner since he was Italian. Raised a Catholic, we had a tiny sip of wine every Sunday during communion.

    As a child, I had a small glass of wine at special family meals such as holidays. When I was in high school and all my friends were sneaking drinks and getting drunk it just didn’t appeal to me because I had grown up with alcohol not being a big deal. Plus, I got to witness how foolish people became when they were drunk.

    When I turned 18 and was legal age to drink, honestly I was much more excited about being about to vote. My friends on the other had spent a lot of time in their late teens and early 20’s getting falling down drunk. They came from families that drinking was a big taboo.

  86. PookandHouse 86

    No matter what we can’t stop teenagers from drinking at early age. BUT changing the law from 21 to 18 is absurd.

    It will like Iceland where kids start drinking at the age of 11.

  87. It reminds me of the similar debate when they were trying to decide whether to lower the voting age to 18. (Yes I am that old).

    I think young people that want to drink, are going to drink, no matter what the law says.

  88. In many ways this blog helps figure out the solution to many problems


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