The controversy surrounding alcohol use in the United States has been longstanding, and dates at least as far back as prohibition when the substance was banned largely due to moral issues. Although prohibition was repealed during the midst of the Great Depression, the controversy surrounding this subject persists to this day. Currently, there is widespread debate about whether or not to lower the drinking age. There are many arguments that are voiced by proponents on both sides, including the fact that lowering the drinking age would reduce the need for young people to engage in subversive behavior associated with illegal drinking and the fact that doing so would only encourage more rampant alcohol abuse. A sustained examination of this issue corroborated by a variety of sources, however, demonstrates that the legal age to drink in the U.S. should not be lowered because it would result in many harmful consequences.
One of the principle reasons that the drinking age should not be lowered in the U.S. is because it would allow those who are not legally adults to lawfully consume a mind altering substance when they are not mature enough to handle it. There are several different facts which support the notion that teenagers are not mature enough to drink responsibly. One needs only analyze the rules for driving in the state of California to understand that many teenagers are recklessly irresponsible. 20 years ago, teenagers were licensed to drive at 16 after completing driver's education and drivers training. However, there were a number of accidents regularly involving teenagers and those who had recently learned to drive, so the state changed the legislation regarding teenage driving. Currently, teenagers are not allowed to drive with other teens in the car without an adult, and cannot drive between 11 p.m. And 5 a.m. until they have had their license for a full year (California DMV). This legislation was enacted to counteract irresponsible teenage driving, and is a testimony to the fact that teenagers are dangerously irresponsible. Enabling them to legally consume alcohol to the point of intoxication by lowering the age limit to do so would only encourage such irresponsibility.
One of the frequently cited counterarguments for lowering the drinking age contends that doing so would take the mystique away from drinking for those underage, which would therefore encourage more responsible drinking for younger people. This viewpoint widely contends that
Although the legal purchase age is 21 years of age, a majority of college students under this age consume alcohol but in an irresponsible manner. This is because drinking by these youth is seen as an enticing "forbidden fruit," a "badge of rebellion against authority" and a symbol of "adulthood" (Engs).
The implication is that enabling young people to drink legally would somehow deter them from drinking to excess because there would be less of a reason to. However, this logic is flawed. Young people do not only drink to excess, but they engage in a lot of behavior to the point of success. They tend to drink to success, party to success, stay out late to excess, and do many things well beyond the limit that an older person, who has engaged in such behavior before, will refrain from doing. A perfect example of this fact is the prevalence of teenage suicides due to first loves and romantic relationships that have dissolved. Teenagers have a hard time of distinguishing between normalcy and reality and adolescent compulsions. Enabling them to drink alcohol freely would only reinforce their proclivity for over indulging to the point of excess.
Another reason that the drinking age should not be lowered is because drinking among those under the age of 21 can produce noxious effects. In fact, there is little positive that alcohol drinking can do for individuals who are under the age of 21. Most people under this age are involved in schooling of some sort, either at the elementary, secondary, or postsecondary level. However, drinking at ages under those of the current legal limit is linked to behavior that is not conducive to taking advantage of opportunities in school and preparing oneself for the future. Instead, "Underage drinking is strongly associated with many health and social problems among youth including alcohol-impaired driving, physical fighting, poor school performance, sexual activity, and smoking" (Centers for Disease Control). This quotation evinces some of the tangible ramifications for those who engage in underage drinking. One of the reasons that the legal limit was raised to 21 is because at that age individuals are rightfully considered adults, and should be far along in their cognitive and social development that alcohol consumption (hopefully) should not deter them. Yet as the preceding quotation indicates, individuals who are drinking prior to reaching this age limit can incur significant issues relating to their and socialization. The overall effect is that young people (especially those in high school) have a difficult enough time attempting to prepare themselves for their future without experiencing inebriation which detracts from their school work, and can lead to other negative facets of life such as teenage sex (which may lead to teenage pregnancy) and underperformance in academic settings. Thus, it is better for young people to wait until they are fully formed adults at the current drinking age before they begin to experience some of the less than desirable effects that alcohol consumption can engender.
The ramifications of lowering the drinking age also have a significant correlation to problems associated with drunk driving. This fact was well researched by a team of professionals from Michigan's BioMedware Corporation. The researchers, led by doctorate Jawail Rasul procured data from 32 college campuses across the nation to see whether or not reducing the age limit for drinking would actually have any effect on the number of younger people drinking to the point of intoxication. In addition to finding that there was no such correlation between changing the age limit and the habits of collegiate drinkers, the "Authors say other alcohol related problems such as impaired driving, tend to increase access increases, as well." Alcohol impaired driving is a very serious issue. There are a number of groups (including those of both mothers and students) that have formed in the wake of the frequent occurrences of tragedies, typically ending in death, related to individuals drinking while intoxication. As the subsequent quotation indicates, there is a possibility that lowering the drinking age would increase access to alcohol for youngsters, as well as increase the incidence of alcohol impaired driving and the devastating consequences that result in the wake of this phenomenon. Lowering the drinking age would increase the likelihood that younger people would drink in public places instead of in private gatherings, which would almost certainly increase the amount of people driving after engaging in this activity. The risk is not worth what little benefit may be derived from decreasing the age limit for legal alcohol consumption. As the changes in legislation to California's driving license policies for young people indicates, the risk of their engaging in irresponsible behavior is just too high.
Lowering the legal age for consuming alcohol will only increase the amount of people who are currently underage drinking. If the goal of those who are in favor of such legislature is to reduce the amount of underage people from drinking to excess, then they should support different measures to do so. One of the reasons that young people want to drink, and drink to excess, is because of myriad images displayed in the media of doing so that is presented to viewers as attractive (Bonnie and O'Connell 3). The same notion applies to the tobacco industry and its manipulation of various forms of media -- from still prints to commercials and spots on television and…