July 17 – Anniversary of a Nationwide Drinking Age Law

Posted on July 17, 2020

I don't drink alcohol. Like, at all. And it's not because it goes against my religion - and it's certainly not because I am a recovering alcoholic. The truth is, I just can't seem to stand it - yicky yuck! Even if I were highly motivated (like, there's a bit of alcohol in the only cough syrup in the house, and I'm desperate to stop coughing for a little while; or I am a guest in my boss's house, and I bit into a chocolate that unexpectedly was filled with a liqueur, and I want so badly to be polite!), I just. Can't. Seem. To. Swallow. It.

But I am not so sure about the wisdom of having people become full-on adults at age 18 - people who can drive, work for pay, vote, and make legal and health-care decisions - but for three whole years they still cannot legally purchase (and, in many states, drink) alcohol. Even without looking at the data, I would think that there's no way that this law is mostly followed!

Looking at the data - yeah, it's not.

Some studies seem to show that deaths from drinking and driving went down when the legal alcohol purchasing age was raised in response to the national law (which was passed on this date in 1984), but possession of alcohol, purchase of alcohol, drinking of alcohol - on the one hand - and driving while under the influence of alcohol - on the other - those are very different things. We should, can, and have cracked down on DUI's in people of ALL ages. 

A lot of the research that is done on underage drinking indicates that making it illegal hasn't made drinking in this age group less and MAY have made it more dangerous. 

So - even though I don't drink at all, and although I am very, very interested in making society safer and healthier - which probably includes less drinking for many and ZERO drinking and driving - I think we should end a drinking age mandate that is rarely followed, spottily enforced. Remember, the current 21 makes things REALLY hard for colleges and military units and other environments where young adults live and work! I think we should join the majority of the world and make 18 the minimum legal drinking age.

Note: most European nations have a legal drinking age from 16 to 18.

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