It’s Time To Lower The Drinking Age

Last night 60 Minutes ran an interesting piece about the suggestion from some that the drinking age be lowered back to 18:

(CBS) Last fall, a group of over 100 college presidents – including the heads of Dartmouth, Virginia Tech and Duke – signed a declaration stating that the 21-year-old drinking age is not working, and fireworks went off.

But the college presidents got what they wanted: a national debate about the drinking age.

When the age was raised to 21 in the mid-1980s, the goal was to reduce highway fatalities. But everyone knows that the 21 age limit hasn’t stopped minors from drinking.

And now some experts believe it’s actually contributing to an increase in extreme drinking

Here’s the video of the entire report, which is worth watching:


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I don’t agree with the suggestion that John McCardell, the former President of Middelbury College, makes at the end of the report, that a return to an 18 year-old drinking age be accompanied by a combination of alcohol education in high school and “drinking licenses” that allow someone to purchase alcohol.

The education idea is on the right track, but the idea of the government issuing licenses to people to “allow” them to consume alcohol strikes me as a step down the road toward the return of neo-Prohibitionism.

This much is clear, raising the drinking age to 21 has not curbed drinking among people aged 18, 19, and 20, and it may have helped make the situation far worse than it would be otherwise.

  • tfr

    Also, the ridiculous attitude of our laws in regard to under-age drinking at home does not help. If I allow any person, including my own children, to consume alcoholic beverages under my personal supervision, keeping them under such supervision until they sober up, I have broken the law and can be prosecuted. This, of course imparts an aura of “forbidden fruit” to something which should be a simple, non-controversial part of everyday life.

  • Kathryn Rebecca

    I think the education idea is a good one as well, but I also don’t think we should have a drinking age. Imposing a government-sanctioned limit on it only serves to increase the forbiddenness of it, and increase the taboo. If parents took on the responsibility of teaching their children good drinking behaviors and kids took on the responsibility of maintaining the behaviors, and asking for help when needed, then we wouldn’t have nearly the amount of drinking-related problems and crimes we do. Of course, this assumes that people will take responsibility for themselves, which is, as always, the impenetrable wall.

  • Aimee

    Just wondering what you think of this article below. I’m not sure how I feel about the drinking age where it is now. It obviously isn’t working. But then you run the risk of something like this happening too, either way I don’t think there is an easy answer.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7883752.stm