At the age of 18 years, there are several responsibilities achieved, for example being allowed to get married, however an individual is not allowed to drink alcohol at a wedding party since all states in the United States have put the lawful drinking age for a person at 21 years of age.  Drinking age has got a key effect on those aged 18-21 years because a lot of them feel that drinking should be a right they ought to have given that they are considered grown-ups.  Drinking age is a subject matter which faces the state and national governments.  USA passed legislation in 1984, to move up the drinking age up to 21 years, and would decrease highway finances for states which did not adjust the age.  (United States, Department of Transportation)

Thesis statement

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The question thus arises whether the drinking age should be lowered to be 18 years, the age when an individual is considered as an adult, and takes on adult advantages and disadvantages, or whether the drinking age should stay put at 21 years, because individuals are more grown-up and consequently, can be more safe as well as responsible with drinking alcohol?  To address this subject, the study paper will carry on, along the following field: background information on the subject will be underscored for reasons of theoretical clarity; and the various arguments for and against lowering of drinking age, the centre of the paper, will be discussed at length; and lastly “a way forward” in terms of a conclusion will be provided.

Background Information

Since Prohibition, there has been an ongoing debate on if consumption of alcohol ought to be lawful or unlawful.  Prohibition happened in 1919, upon the approval of 18th Amendment.  Prohibition of alcohol outlawed the production, marketing, and haulage of intoxicating drinks.  The Amendment was later repealed with another one, the 21st Amendment of 1933 (Alcohol Policies Project, 2006) The 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act obligated all the states to amend their lawful drinking age to 21, if the any state refused to conform to the law, then it would lose funds according to the Federal Aid Highway Act.  (Hingson, et al, 2006)  The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration has approximated that 18,220 people’s lives were saved owing to the raised drinking age.  (Alcohol Policies Project, 2006)

How teens use alcohol:

The article “Teen Drinking” presents some ideas why teenagers drink. This includes “curiosity, to feel good, to reduce stress and relax, to fit in, and to feel older” (The Children’s Rights of New York, pg 2). Mainly, the article states that alcohol greatly affects the brain and can change a person’s behavior and capabilities and because young people are not able to control situations the way that adults can and drinking of illegal age can lead to dreadful decisions. “Alcohol tends to block some of the commands the brain is sending to various parts of the body, and so it alters the senses (The Children’s Rights of New York, pg 17).

One of the main reasons why teenagers drink is so they could be in on the crowd. Many

teenagers see drinking as a way to make friends and be involved in social activities. Teenagers who drink are usually the same teenagers who are popular on campus such as cheerleaders or varsity players. Hence, teenage drinking becomes associated with “being cool” and so teenagers become attracted to it. The National Institute on Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism reveal some shocking statistics such as that 20% of eight graders and 80% of high school seniors’ drink, and that 25% of all the alcohol sold in the U.S. are drunk by minors. (Alcohol Policies Project, 2006)

Nowadays alcohol Marketing are targeting teenagers.  example: studies shows that 30 % of all magazine are alcohol related advertisement, television show lots of alcohol ads, lots of advertisement portrays sexy scene where models are in bikinis drinking alcohol, partying and having so much fun.. Malt liquors known as alco-pos are designed to look and taste nothing like alcoholic beverages, packaging and labeling looks like regular fruity drinks that kid has been drinking, etc. Thus, alcohol marketing has continued to attract teenagers to drink through their elaborate marketing strategies which have continued to target young people the way their make alcohol seem harmless and cool to drink.

Statistics of accident that occur when the legal age

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) one of the main campaigners for upholding the legal age at 21 years, have categorically pointed out that, maintaining the legal age at 21 has greatly reduced the number of traffic accidents. Indeed, the National Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) has estimated that almost 25,000 lives have been saved on the road due to increasing the legal age at 21. As Ralph Hingson of NTSA ones stated “ we have previously experimented by reducing the drinking age in the 1970s and the number of traffic accidents increased”. Thus, he adds that accordingly he thinks that it is not a great suggestion to revisit and repeat what made maters worse.

Motor vehicle accidents

The number of motor vehicles accidents has continued to be the main cause of deaths for teenagers aged between 16 and 20. According to statistics given by the traffic department,  1,648 teenagers aged 16-20 in 2006 were critical injured in accidents which involved one or two drivers with a Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) amount of .08 or more, this number was about 4% more than 2005 figures. In 2007, 7,286 teenagers drivers aged between 16 and 20 were involved in traffic accidents and out of that number, 11% of them had a 0.8 or more of BAC level.

In addition, there are those who argue that teenager drinking has been reduced by 13% ever since the law was passed in 1984; this is according to studies carried out.  (Voas, 2006)

Table 1 below shows the positive impacts and negative impacts found out by the Harvard Survey of College Administrators

Consequences  of increasing age of drinking
Students have become more aware of the problems related to drinking
Decreasing of underage students drinking

Reduction in heavy drinking

Students have  continued to drink however gone off-campus

Students drive subsequent to drinking has been more frequently


Student drinking on-campus has continued, although gone “underground”

Learning environment on campus has become a lot more conducive to learning
Campus drive has suffered

implementation of alcohol policies on campus has become much more difficult


This table shows that, rising the drinking age to 21 has had several benefits to many schools as well as colleges, for that it can be argued that the age of drinking should not be reduced since maintaining it at 21 has more benefits. (Hanson, 2006)

The risks of drinking for teens

Many teenagers are not aware that underage drinking has a lot of serious implications in their lives. They believe that it is harmless but soon find themselves not being able to control their cravings or the situations that they have gotten themselves into. While their actions can be blamed by the decisions these young people made, the media has taken a large part of underage drinking because of their campaign advertisements directed to teenagers mostly.

Drinking alcohol has many dangers especially for teenagers. Teenagers who do not live to see the age 20 often have alcohol as part of the causes of their deaths. Many kids who drink at parties end up in car crashes or get drowned in pools. Females who drink excessively often become victims of sexual assault and rape. In 67% of homicide cases committed by people under 20, the suspect was reported to have been drinking before or during the incident. Those who drink excessively in parties also often end up having multiple sexual partners and engaging in unprotected sex thereby increasing the risk for them to catch STDs. Lastly, drinking in itself can be a killer. Excessive drinking can cause a person to go into a coma and die. HIV/Aids mainly infect people through, sexual activities, when a person has unprotected sex with a person who is infected then he/she will probably get the HIV and suffer from Aids. Studies indicate that a lot of teenagers have contracted HIV as a result of having taken alcohol.

Lastly, latest scientific developments are able to relate teenage drinking to permanent brain damage. This is what is called teen brain drain. Teenagers who drink are at a danger of suffering from damaged memory. This is because the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that handles memories is found to be significantly smaller among teenage drinkers than among teenage nondrinkers. Furthermore, teenage drinkers are more likely to become alcoholics than people who start drinking at a later age in life. This is because the teenage brain is more flexible than the adult brain and adapts readily to the experiences given to it. When the teenager drinks excessively, the brain gets used to all the alcohol that the body is taking and begins to yearn for it.

Comparison to other countries

The minimum lawful drinking age was implemented in almost every nation to shield the teenagers all over the world from the harmful consequences of alcohol misuse. A lot of countries throughout the world have barred alcohol advertisement which is aimed to teenagers. However, in other countries, the lowest drinking age has not been enforced. Nevertheless in those countries where there is no minimum age of drinking there is major increases alcohol associated misuse as well as death. An outstanding case is China, where there no minimum age of drinking. (Hanson, 2006)

Table II: Legal drinking age in other countries

Drinking age
Traffic deaths associate with teen drinking
3500 (2006)
4600 (2006)
2000   (2006)
2200    (2006)
2560    (2006)
Source Alcohol Policies Project (2006)

There are several countries that do not have any legal age of drinking such as China, Italy, Greek and Israel but have small problems related to drinking. In these countries, alcohol is not seen as poisonous or magic stimulating. There are no strict regulations concerning drinking. Behaviors which are contrary to the law are strongly dealt with and if found guilty you cannot plead for drunkenness as a defense. In these countries, teenagers get to know from their parents and other aged members of the society on how to handle alcohol reasonably. It should be noted that since the age of 21 years old as provided by law is not observed, the USA has to change this section of the law and adopt the techniques used by other countries stated above on acceptable drinking methods for those teenagers who eye consumption of alcohol. (Rutz, 1998)

Alcohol also leads to other social issues, ranging from assaults, rape, accidents to alcohol poisonings, which can be fatal or almost fatal. Teenagers who are drunk became reluctant to call for help in case things get into the wrong side. Students also have indicated that when teenagers drink alcohol, their sense of judgment is general reduced and their urge in get involved in sexual acts increases. It is during such occasions that they get highly exposed to sexual transmitted diseases particularly HIV. (Rutz, 1998)

It as been argued that there should be no legal drinking age. Supposing there was no specific drinking age enacted, teenagers would not consider alcohol as being the forbidden fruit any longer and they will be very responsible about it. According to Dr. Ruth Engs clearly observes, teenagers have continued to flaunt of the present legal age of drinking is readily evident among teenagers who, ever since the raise in the lowest legal drinking age, have appeared to drink alcohol in a highly abusive way compared  do those who are in the legal age bracket. (Engs, 2006)This aspect reflects what exactly occurred in the broader public during the period of national Prohibition. This reference is stating that for the reason that the legal drinking age is 21, when teenagers gets hold of alcohol, they seem to drink the alcohol a lot more since they do not make out when again they will ever  get such alcohol. It is now a reality that ever since the legal drinking age was raised to 21 years, the proportion of teenagers drinking has reduced, however the volume of alcohol taken teenagers has increased. (Engs, 2006)

Furthermore, Dr. Engs outlines another important point when he states that, when the legal drinking age is lowered or removed as in other countries such as a china which do no have legal age for drinking,   would assist convey the imperative point that drinking of alcohol is, indeed, not proof of maturity of an individual, that in reality responsible drinking for those people who opt to drink is a proof of maturity. This is what other teenagers especially in China have been thought, that drinking of alcohol should not be in connected to maturity.  If teenagers become aware of this aspect, then they will realize that there are severe consequences of early drinking. (Engs, 2006)

How can parents prevent them?

Teenagers get alcohol information from varying sources; it can be through one another, the media which includes books, television, magazines, leaflets, adverts, and also the internet. This information is meant to either educate the teenagers about dangers of drinking or to attract to drink; some of the information will be accurate and educative, while others will be inaccurate and distractive. Alcohol education to the teenagers should be based on finding out about what the youths already know so that you can add to their knowledge at the same time make correction of any misinformation or misconception that they may possibly have. For instance, adolescents could have heard said that, alcohol make makes one to “enjoy” and feel “good”. It is therefore, important to give accurate information that corrects any previous mistaken beliefs. If the teenagers don’t get accurate and correct information they will be exposed to greater danger. (Unger, 2005)

Information about drinking and alcohol is vital to the teenagers as it provides the foundation on which the teenagers can build up well informed approaches, views and attitudes about alcohol. Teenagers should be informed on the following issues; legal age of drinking, dangers of drinking, responsible behaviors and more how to avoid temptations of drinking. It is there for important that parents be on the frontline of passing accurate information to their children and also showing responsible drinking behaviors to their children. (Unger, 2005)

It has been observed that many parents send their teenagers, aged below 21 to buy for them alcohol, take them to places where alcohol is sold and drunk, or even give them alcohol in their homes to taste and drink alcohol. Such behaviors encourage the teenagers to take alcohol before the legal age and also having a perception that alcohol is good. (Hingson, et al, 2006)

Many teenagers are not aware that underage drinking has a lot of serious implications in their lives. They believe that it is harmless but soon find themselves not being able to control their cravings or the situations that they have gotten themselves into. While their actions can be blamed by the decisions these young people made, the media has taken a large part of underage drinking because of their campaign advertisements directed to teenagers mostly. Parents should put an extra effort in talking to their children and making them aware of the negative effects of drinking. Keeping in mind that although these teenagers have a mind of their own they still needs guidance and support every now and then. (Hingson, et al, 2006)

Fortunately, there are many non-profit organizations that can provide help for them or even to those who they think need help. Binge drinking or any other alcoholic problem can ruin a person’s life or the people around him or her. They usually cannot help themselves and intervention is needed to make them realize that drinking is not doing them any good. (Hingson, et al, 2006)  Supposing the drinking age is reduced even down to 18 years of age, this would bring in an awful crisis into high schools in America. Senior students, who are aged 18 years, could lawfully go to an alcohol shop and purchase beers, then; they might hand out the beers to their mates who are below the age of 18. In a lot of states, neither one would be contravening the law. Thus, the entire reason of the lawful minimum drinking age, meant to shield the teenagers of United States from the harmful effects brought about by drinking of alcohol, would not be achieved. (Hanson, 2006)


These young people have a lot more to think about than the problems that alcohol can bring. They should be focusing on their future and their academic life rather than wasting money and time drinking beer or spending time locked inside a jail cell. They should realize that drinking alcohol is not harmless and it is definitely not fun waking up the next day not being able to remember anything that happened the night before. They should be taught to stand up for what they think is right and not give in to peer pressure. Also, parents, as adults, should be setting them better examples by being responsible when drinking or by not drinking at all. Teens and alcohols do not mix well together and nothing good can come out of it. I believe maintaining the age requirement for buying alcohol at 21 is of utmost importance since the community in general will benefit from it. Maintaining the age requirement for buying alcohol at 21 will benefit the community at large by creating a safer and convenient place. Thus it shows how the death rate of teens underage drinking decreases and also the effects of alcohol in his psychological functioning in slowing down people’s brain. I strongly believe that the age minimum should stay as it is now no matter what due to its importance in our country’s future as well as the future of our children.


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