In 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which threatened penalty to any state setting a legal drinking age below 21. Today, many studies show that four out of five college students drink alcohol. Considering that only about a third of all college students are of age to be drinking, underage drinking is clearly still happening.
I have to wonder, what does the drinking age really prevent? Almost all alcohol-related problems are a result of binge drinking. Binge drinking broadly defines excessive drinking. If someone chooses to participate in binge drinking then they are personally choosing to put themselves at risk of alcohol-related problems.
Rules are established for the good of all people. Fair enough. If this is true, then a case could be made for sex being outlawed outside of marriage. Less abortions, fewer affairs and better marriages would hopefully ensue. Personally, I choose to hold to abstinence out of my own virtue and sense of responsibility. No one can legally enforce me to not have sex, instead I regulate that myself. I have, in a sense, taught myself through self-discipline, how to be responsible. If there were a law of that sort in place then people would still surely break it. In effect, the law would solve very little.
It is by virtue and a sense of responsibility that anyone chooses to control themselves. Of course there are people with drinking problems, but that is only true because they have allowed themselves to get to that point.
The fact is that underage drinking will continue no matter what the law is. Alcohol-related problems will also continue to occur, as they have, despite the laws.
Perhaps allowing younger people to drink would worsen the problems. But here we have the convenience of looking at European countries, where the common drinking age is 18, and binge drinking is arguably less of a problem.
If, at 18, an American can vote, get married and serve in the military, it seems quite idiosyncratic that they not be allowed to drink. In some states, parentally-approved marriages can happen at the age of 16. We are, then, trusting 16-year-olds with the huge responsibility of being parents but telling them they are far too young to be trusted with a can of beer.
In July of this past summer, the Amethyst Initiative was established with the mission of re-raising the drinking age conversation. To date, 130 college and university presidents and chancellors have signed the initiative, admitting that the drinking age is not working and encouraging elected officials to explore new ideas.
In a 2006 survey of 236 students conducted by the Waltonian, 11 percent of students claimed to have disobeyed Eastern’s alcohol policy, while another 22 percent chose not to answer the question.
The drinking age is clearly not preventing underage drinking. As 130 presidents and chancellors have already noted, the problem of alcohol abuse needs a new solution.
Inquiring Minds is the opinion of the writer with collective thoughts of the editorial staff included, although not altogether representative of the editorial staff’s views.