Should the drinking age be lowered to 18? | The Tylt

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Should the drinking age be lowered to 18?
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In the United States, citizens can vote, operate a vehicle, pay taxes, marry, become a legal guardian, own a gun, and serve in the military when they are 18-years old, so why can't they legally consume alcohol? Wil Fulton argues in Thrillist that it is high time the U.S. follow the lead of its European counterparts and lower the drinking age from 21 to 18.

[A study] conducted by the Prevention Research Center, contends that European teens spend more time intoxicated than Americans... [but] even though Americans drink less than Europeans, we die more from alcohol-related causes.

Fulton outlines that while Europeans do in fact drink more than Americans, they have a much healthier attitude toward alcohol, which makes them less likely to abuse it.

Alcohol to an American under age 21 is “forbidden fruit,” that entices with its “Don’t do this!” mystique, and forces kids into risky behavior... The illegal aspect encouraged me away from any controlled settings like bars and restaurants, and forced me to drink and have parties wherever and whenever we could find a secret and often unsafe location (woods at night, abandoned houses, haunted mansions, frat parties, etc.)

The drinking age has been 21 since Reagan signed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984. The act was meant to raise the drinking age to prevent teens from driving drunk, but Fulton points out that the evidence this was effective is shaky at best.

The whole point of Reagan's act was to curb intoxicated young people from getting behind the wheel... But wouldn't a stricter, zero-tolerance policy for drivers who have had their license for less than five years make way more sense, and possibly deter many more intoxicated drivers than alcohol age limits?

Is it time to just lower the drinking age already?

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But not everyone thinks lowering the drinking age is a good idea because the current drinking age, according to Laura Dean-Mooney, saves lives.

Twenty-one isn't just an arbitrary number set by Congress—more than 20 states already had laws setting the drinking age there in 1984. And since the 21 law was widely enacted, the number of young people killed annually in crashes involving drunk drivers under 21 has been cut in half, from more than 5,000 individuals in the early 1980s to around 2,000 in 2005. By the end of 2005, the 21 drinking age had saved nearly 25,000 American lives—approximately 1,000 lives a year.

Deam-Mooney argues research suggests a lower drinking age would make the problem of binge drinking and underage drinking significantly worse by making it easier for teens to access alcohol. Not to mention a teenager's brain is still growing at 18, and it is unclear how damaging alcohol is to early brain development.

The adolescent brain is a work in progress, marked by significant development in areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory, complex thinking, planning, inhibition, and emotional regulation. The neurotoxic effect of excessive alcohol use is a danger to these key regions of the maturing adolescent brain.

Lowering the drinking age may sound reasonable to many, but public opinion is still not keen on the idea of teenagers drinking openly. If the current drinking age does save lives, why should we change it?

Since states began setting the legal drinking age at 21, the law has been one of the most studied in our history. The evidence is overwhelming: More than 50 high-quality scientific studies all found the 21 law saves lives, both on and off the road. And the public agrees: 72 percent of adults think that lowering the drinking age would make alcohol more accessible to kids, and nearly half think that it would increase binge drinking among teens, according to a new Nationwide Insurance poll.
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