By: ERIN BAKER ’19
Happy birthday! You are 18 years old now. You are now legally considered an adult, which means you can start your own bank account, take out loans, vote in elections and even enlist in the military. You would think that now that you can affect the fate of your country or die trying to protect it that you would be allowed all adult privileges, right? Well, in fact, you can’t do one thing: buy yourself a drink.
You think you would be able to, right? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an “adult” is defined as “fully grown and developed,” or “mature and sensible; not childish.” A person who can vote for presidential candidates would be mature and sensible, right?
Unfortunately, despite the heavy responsibilities given to young adults, the United States does not allow 18-years-olds to buy alcohol. Not only does this undermine your status as an adult, studies show you are also more likely to binge-drink. If 16-year-olds in Europe can have a beer whenever they want, you should be able to have a drink.
If you are given adult responsibilities, you should be treated like an adult. In the TV show, “What Would You Do?” two actors who play army veterans walk into a bar and ask for a drink. The bartender, another actor, denies them, but the customers, who are real people, all believe that they should have drink. The only reason the customers do not buy these two ‘soldiers’ a drink is because of one law. This law undermines the duties these young soldiers have to their country. I’m sure if you just came back from Afghanistan, you would want to celebrate with a drink. But, sorry, you can’t.
Not only does the general public feel this way, but college professors do, too. According to the Amethyst Initiative, a petition by college professors to lower the drinking age, professors realize that “Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.” If college professors, who spend the majority of their time with young adults, can recognize the maturity of 18-year-olds, why can’t the United States government?
Along with not being treated like an adult, you will probably engage in more binge-drinking because of this restrictive age limit. According to the Amethyst Initiative, this culture of binge-drinking arose from this law. The federal law doesn’t stop people under 21 from drinking. It doesn’t stop them from getting alcohol illegally or riskily. Young adults will try to drink more during “pre-gaming” because they won’t have as much access to alcohol once they leave. You are actually going to witness a person almost go to the hospital because he was binge-drinking – they drank a whole bottle of alcohol by themselves, along with other people’s drinks.
If the drinking age was lowered, incidents like this would be less likely to happen. Young adults could drink in supervised environments. According to ProCon.org, preventing young adults from drinking in licensed locations causes them to drink in unsupervised locations like fraternity houses. This leads to more instances of binge-drinking. Limits could be instated under supervision, leading to fewer instances of alcohol-related accidents.
Finally, if people as young as 16-years-old can drink in places like Europe, why can’t you do it here? Sixteen-year-olds are not even legally defined as adults, yet they still get the privilege of choosing to drink? It seems many European countries, such as Germany, Spain and the Netherlands give more privileges to people who can’t even serve their country in the military yet. I guess that’s something you’re going to have to live with.
Also, did you know that far fewer dangerous drinking accidents occur in Europe than in the United States? According to Choose Responsibility.org, there are “fewer occasions of dangerous intoxication” for 15 to 16-years olds in Europe than in the United States even though they have more instances of drinking. This shows higher drinking ages are actually causing more problems for American young adults. Does the U.S. government know these facts?
I’m sure you probably also heard about people defending this law. According to ProCon.org, 18-year-olds shouldn’t drink because there are major health consequences associated with drinking. However, if young adults were allowed to drink in supervised environments, people could better educate them about the dangers of drinking too much in a relaxed environment. Drinking could also become part of social interaction, like it is in Europe. Relaxed, supervised environments would be much safer for young drinkers, don’t you think?
Even though these facts demonstrate a higher drinking age causes more harm than good, you’re just going to have to live with it. Clearly, you are more likely to get involved in an alcohol-related accident because you will binge-drink. You’re not allowed to control what goes into your own body, even though you can influence what happens to the country. You’re going to have to live with the fact you won’t be treated as an adult, even though people younger than you elsewhere in the world are.
Sorry that this new world of adulthood still has its limitations. Even though by definition you are an adult, you still get to be treated as a child. I hope you don’t see too many alcohol-related accidents your first year of college, but you can never tell what will happen because of this minimum drinking age law. Let’s hope in the future the United States takes a hint from other countries and starts treating 18-year-olds like what they are: adults. Trust me, their long-awaited eighteenth birthdays will be so much happier.