It is no secret that underage drinking is rampant in the United States. Though it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy or possess alcohol, people under the age of 21 accounts for 17.5% of consumer spending for alcohol nationwide and 90% of that is consumed through binge drinking (Tracy). According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 9.3 million Americans between ages 12-20 report current alcohol consumption (Distillers Fighting). With alcohol being one the most commonly abused drugs and soon to pass tobacco on the cause of death list, the pose the questions that if lowering the drinking age could actually increase responsible alcohol intake.
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With the media advertising a fun and youthful time when alcohol is present, but the law rebuking the consumption of alcohol, underage drinkers are forced to pull risky stunts to fulfill their desire for alcohol. Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on U.S. television increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009 (The Center).
In the 1920’s when prohibition went into effect, supports claimed that banning alcohol would lead to a decrease in crimes and it would benefit the economy greatly. However, just the opposite happened, crime increased greatly over the next decade as top criminals such as Al Capone took over selling bootleg alcohol. The government took a big hit as the not only lost money from stores not making a profit off alcohol, but they had invested billions into enacting the law. Like the prohibition, could the US be wrong with their beliefs in teenagers and alcohol?
However, to what extent would dropping the drinking age affect our society? Would we really have more responsible adolescent drinking? One study believes not. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention dropping the drinking age would not positively affect youths drinking as such believed by the European age limit. In data collected by the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs, 36% of high school sophomores in the US said that they have been drunk or binge drink in the last month while 47% of European Sophomores said they have (Comparison). More facts go on to verify that EU has one of the highest drinking rate in the world and that ¼ deaths among young men (age 15-29) is due to alcohol (European Commission). After the drinking age nationwide rose uniformly to 21 (from 18) in 1988 in the US, there were 5 to 9 percent fewer deaths among drivers ages 18 to 20, according to one study cited in DeJong’s report (Hayoun). So Europe may have just as big of a problem with drinking or maybe even bigger, problem than the US.
One thing I have observed is that with age, the desire to consume large amounts of alcohol decreases. People that I know of that are 21 years or older, tend to not be as excited to go out a get drunk as people that are under 21. This could be due to having been exposed to alcohol for a while or the freedom to get it as you please, decreases the value of it. Maybe the key to decreasing the likely hood of sever underage drinking is to start exposing a person to alcohol from an early age.
With all the facts presented, the problem of underage drinking cannot be solved by simply lowering the drinking age. Like most issues that involve drugs or alcohol, the source of these problem can be found at homes. Children in...