Minimum Legal Drinking Age

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Avowed purpose of alcohol policy is to reduce morbidity, mortality, and different social problems associated with alcohol. In 1984, Ronald Raegan signed a law increasing the minimal drinking age to 21 years (Miron and Tetelbaum 319). From that time, the issue of the minimal drinking age reduction has been of significant interest. There are many arguments both for and against an increase of the legal drinking age. However, experience of the many European countries, as well as some American states shows that there is more harm than good when the youth is allowed to consume alcohol under the age of 21. Therefore, minimal legal drinking age should not be reduced in order to avoid harmful consequences.

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There is a popular brief that it is not a big deal when a child consumes small amounts of alcohol. They say “I did it when I was a kid, and I'm OK” (Voas). However, this opinion is wrong. Despite the fact there is a number of individuals consuming alcohol in childhood, its influence cannot be underestimated. It is known that alcohol affects cognitive processes of the human brain; it slows down child’s development and may lead to serious health outcomes, such as heart failure, liver dysfunction, and others (Miron and Tetelbaum 323). Therefore, in case alcohol is legally consumed at the age of 18-20 when the human body is relatively young and is still developing, it can have harmful health effects, starting from an alcohol abuse up to liver cirrhosis.

In 1970, minimal legal drinking age was 18 in thirty states (Miron and Tetelbaum 324). They motivated such decrease in terms of the Vietnam War: since these youngsters are adult enough for a military service, they can drink either. However, consequences were quite surprising. The amount of alcohol-related car accidents and othe fatalities increased significantly. Despite these results, only in 1988 all American states adopted the Raegan’s Law. Numerous population studies have found out that even a slight reduction in the level of alcohol consumption is accompanied by a decrease in crime in general and violent crime in particular. Thus, in Alaska, as a result of the referendum, sale of alcohol in villages has been banned. The level of violent crime has declined sharply. After lifting of the ban, violent crime has reached the initial level. In Belarus, during the anti-alcohol campaign, reduction of the sale rate of alcohol in 1984 - 1986 to individuals under the age of 21 led to 41% a decline in homicides (Miron and Tetelbaum 327). Reducing the availability of alcohol to teens by raising the minimum age for the sale has reduced consumption of alcohol and violent crime among this category. Nowadays, researchers show that the increased drinking age has saved about 24,000 lives (Voas).

Someone could say that alcohol is a forbidden fruit for teenagers and youngsters. Therefore, lowering the minimal drinking age would reduce the temptation and, as a result, reduce the rate of alcohol consumption by people aged 18-20. They say that individuals will be more patient since 18 is closer than 21. However, in practice it is known that the earlier a person starts to consume alcohol, the higher consumptions rates are, i.e. an individual who starts at 18-years-old tends to drink more and more often than the one who starts at the age of 21 (Voas). For that reason, minimal age should not be reduced since the danger of becoming an alcohol addict or obtaining a harmful health effect is much greater if to start drinking at 18.

The “forbidden fruit” argument can be doubted by the opinion that at a teenage age one wants to drink alcohol becausee of emotional reasons. The point is that alcohol consumption is an attribute of adulthood and an individual is an adult physically, but not emotionally at the age of 18. Therefore, beer, wine, whisky, and other alcohol beverages are consumed in order to prove that one is an adult. Since teenagers are more perceptible to alcohol, these adult experiments make a lot of harm. An individual aged 21 has completed the full process of the personality development and he/she is able to make informed choices.

Finally, the main argument of those who are for the minimal drinking age reduction claim that there no problems with alcohols in European countries where an individual can consume alcohol starting from the age of 18 and sometimes even 16. They state that the rates of liquor consumption are the same as in the U.S. However, it is a myth since due to early “alcohol life” rates of addiction and abuse in Europe is rather high. Intoxication levels in Europe are almost twice the U.S. level (Voas). As a result, the rate of alcohol-related crimes, accidents, and homicide because of alcohol intoxication is much greater in Europe than in the U.S. Obviously, this argument is open to criticism.

It is generally known that alcohol consumption is harmful at any age and at any dosage since ethyl destroys neurons (nervous cells). At the age of 21, human body is relatively adult both physically and mentally and, therefore, can withstand the harmful effect of alcohol more efficiently. Furthermore, irresponsible consumption of alcohol below the age of 21 leads to great amount of car accidents and other liquor-related fatalities. Taking into account all arguments, decrease of the drinking age will cause more troubles than benefits. Thus, despite the alcohol situation people can observe nowadays, raise of minimal legal alcohol drinking age is motiveless.

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