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Anna Moody

Parker 7

English 12

8 March 2017

Drinking Age - Does It Need to be Lowered?

On the surface, youth alcohol policy is simple and straightforward: the legal age for

alcohol consumption is 21 in all states, and drinking before then is illegal. As it happens, though,

these laws are not terribly effective. Huge numbers of kids age 12 and up consume alcoholic

beverages, despite the law (McMullen). Since the mid 1900s, drinking has progressed as one of

the most controversial social issues our nation is currently facing. Both sides in this debate have

strong arguments helping support their beliefs. Society continues this ongoing battle of how to

better regulate a persons right to drink alcohol at the age of majority against those who feel

anyone under 21 is too irresponsible to handle alcohol consumption.

During the 1800s Prohibition movements began to rise, mainly forming from religious

groups who thought being drunk was a threat to the nation. As the conflict of bootlegging and

crimes reached its peak during the 1880s, congress decided to ratify the 21st Amendment,

repealing prohibition (History). Not only did this revocation of the 18th Amendment in 1933

allow the transportation, production, and importation of alcohol to be made legal again, but it

also gave each state the permission to set their own MLDA (minimum legal drinking age)

(State). Therefore, to accommodate 18 year olds who were going off to war, President Nixon

signed a law granting 18 year olds the right to vote. This later became known as the 26th

Amendment. As a result of this law, many states lowered their drinking age to 18. However, this
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new, lowered drinking age resulted in an increase of drunk driving and accidents. In response to

these consequences, sixteen states increased the legal drinking age back to 21 in 1983

(Bowersox). President Reagan agreed on July 17, 1984 to sign a law called the Uniform

Drinking Age Act mandating all states to adopt 21 as the legal drinking age within five years. By

1988, all states had set 21 as the minimum drinking age (MADD). Statistically proven by the

National Traffic Highway Administration (NHTSA), it is said that the 21 minimum drinking age

has saved around 900 lives per year. Therefore, a total of more than 25,000 people are alive

today because of the 21 minimum drinking age law in every state (MADD). Despite all the

positive effects of the 21 minimum drinking age, underage drinking is still a serious problem in

America. Because of this, crimes, rape, and other harmful acts can take place when someone is

drunk. Although, there is hope that the more parents and caregivers know about underage

drinking, the more it can be prevented (Bowersox).

United States citizens are allowed to serve our country in the army, get married, vote, and

sign legal documents (Franz). At 18 you are considered an adult. At this age, restaurants allow

employees to serve and sell alcohol, yet it still cant legally be consumed. Why is this the case?

Many state that part of being an adult is taking on new responsibilities and learning from past

mistakes. Europeans are seen to handle their alcohol quite responsibly due to the fact that they

have been around it their whole life.

I remember being fascinated by the level of respect and control young Europeans had

when they drank. Their explanation was that they had been exposed to alcohol almost

their entire lives, as enjoying a glass of wine at dinner is not uncommon for children as
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young as 12. These kids knew how much alcohol they could handle because they were

taught about it in an upfront, transparent way (Fulton).

Is it possible to mimic Europe and other countries examples with a lower drinking age? With

European kids learning to drink in a controlled environment, they dont feel the need to

dangerously binge drink whenever given the chance. In many southern European countries

roughly one in ten of all drinking occasions results in intoxication, while in the United States

almost half of all drinking occasions result in intoxication (Responsibility). This is an example

of how other citizens in other countries view the forbidden fruit aspect. The desire to get

wasted is because it is illegal and the minor might not know when theyll be able to drink next,

so they drink in excess. Those of the age of 21, who now arent afraid or are allowed to drink in

public, stop drinking in unsafe environments such as private parties, basements, fraternity

houses, etc. In response, less risky and unwanted behaviors will take place, and the law wont

continuously be broken. Drinking underground is a tremendous issue for college campuses

(Wechsler). This is why in November 2009, 135 college presidents came together to sign the

Amethyst Initiative, which supported lowering the drinking age (Carpenter). A letter written by a

college professor at Indiana University claims he has been doing research on this topic. First he

states that underage college students drink no matter what.


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Figure 1 (above) was a study taken by the NIAAA in 2001-2002. This helped target a specific age group to
figure out where alcohol consumption happened the most. As seen in the bar graph, students who are starting to
begin college consume the most alcohol.
(Windle, Michael, and Robert A. Zucker. Reducing Underage and Youth Adult Drinking. National Institute on
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism , pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh40/29-44.htm. Accessed 13 Mar.
2017.)

Yet, the problem lies in the fact that research from the early 1980s until the present has shown a

continuous decrease in drinking and driving related variables which has parallel the nation's, and

also university students, decrease in per capita consumption. However, these declines started in

1980 before the national 1987 law which mandated states to have 21 year old alcohol purchase

laws (Engs). Professor Engs continued to say that the drinking age isnt the only thing

contributing to vehicle accidents. Drunk driving education, safer automobiles, and free taxi

services provided by drinking establishments all can help lower the risk of an accident while

under the influence (Engs).

Lowering the drinking age comes with a cost: more responsibilities, health repercussions,

easier access to alcohol, and an increase in motor vehicle accidents (9 Prevailing). An example

of a responsibility involving the effects of drinking could include pregnancy. It is said that if the
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MLDA became lowered to 18 more teen and or unwanted pregnancies would occur. In an

interview with Albert Rossner, a registered ER Nurse at Allegiance Health and a local Parma

Firefighter, he was asked the following question, If the drinking age were lowered, do you think

there would be more teenage pregnancies? If so, why? In his reply he stated that more teenage

pregnancies would occur because underage kids would continuously consume alcohol,

potentially leading to even younger kids participating in this activity (Rossner). Since alcohol

can alter your brain and cause you to partake in dangerous activities, drinking while pregnant is

also a serious threat. A follow up question for Albert was, If more pregnancies were to occur,

do you think there would be a rise of babies with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? He said, I think

that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome would spike because our education on health isnt good, so young

pregnant women wont think about the effects of drinking while theyre pregnant (Rossner).

Not only can drinking cause lifelong consequences for children, but it can also contribute to

serious medical conditions within adults. At age 18 a humans brain is still developing. If the

drinking age were lowered, the cells in a young adults brain would begin to deteriorate, causing a

2% smaller hippocampus among individuals who drink before the age of 21 (Hunter). The

hippocampus is responsible for learning and memory. Therefore, kids who start drinking at an

early age tend to struggle in school and are more likely to become alcoholics later on in life.

After affecting the hippocampus, your frontal cortex, involved in your conscious thoughts,

becomes less active. This is seen when brain scans against an individual who drinks and an

individual who doesnt drink are compared (Hunter).


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Figure 2 (above). This image compares the brain of an underage drinker (on the left) against the brain of an
individual who doesnt drink (on the right). The colored areas show the memory and retainable parts of the brain. As
you can see, on the brain of the drinker there arent many colored areas. Therefore, a heavy drinker has trouble
retaining information, proving why they start to struggle in school.
(Lorl. The Power of Parents - Underage Drinking. North Phoenix Moms Blog, 20 Apr. 2016,
northphoenix.citymomsblog.com/the-power-of-parents-underage-drinking/. Accessed 13 Mar. 2017.)

The debate on lowering the drinking age has constantly been a problem since back in the

early-mid 1900s, struggling to determine a responsible age for young adults to consume

alcoholic beverages. First, the drinking age was lowered, but after seeing the effects of this, they

rose it again, hoping to minimize them. Although nothing seems to be changing and a lot of

complications pertaining to underage drinkers are hidden, causing more and more problems

among students and colleges. One solution provided was possibly lowering the drinking age to

19, imitating the drinking law in Canada (Bwoww). Statistically proven, in 2014 there were

around 5,281,113 recorded citizens, but only 336,839 were underaged. This is roughly 6.378% of

the population that is under aged, heavy drinkers (Canada). Another suggestion given, was

lowering the drinking age to 18 in bars, but not allowing the purchase of alcoholic beverages in

stores until the age of 20/21 (Kamann). This can help eliminate the party aspect of drinking in
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dangerous environments, potentially not allowing many underage kids to participate in drinking.

Various solutions have been given out, such as the ones listed above, to help solve this issue but

such a powerful subject requires careful consideration.


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Works Cited

9 Prevailing Pros and Cons of Lowering the Drinking Age. NYLN.org, 8 July 2015,

nyln.org/9-prevailing-pros-and-cons-of-lowering-the-drinking-age. Accessed 22 Feb.

2017.

Bowersox, John. Underage Drinking. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health

and Human Services, 29 Mar. 2013,

report.nih.gov/NIHfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=21. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

Bwoww, Cherry Creek NY. DRINKING AGE: Remain the Same. Teen Ink,

www.teenink.com/hot_topics/what_matters/article/374094/DRINKING-AGE-Remain-th

e-Same/. Accessed 8 Mar. 2017.

Canada, Government of Canada Statistics. Heavy Drinking, by Age Group and Sex (Number of
Persons). Government of Canada, Statistics Canada, 7 Mar. 2016,
www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/health79a-eng.htm. Accessed 12
Mar. 2017.
Carpenter, Christopher, and Carlos Dobkin. The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public
Health. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2011,
www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257%2Fjep.25.2.133. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017.
Engs, Ruth. Why the Drinking Age Should Be Lowered: An Opinion Based Upon Research.

Indiana University, 2014, www.indiana.edu/~engs/articles/cqoped.html.+. Accessed 27

Feb. 2017.

Franz, Harley. Persuasive Speech - Changing Legal Drinking Age. YouTube, YouTube, 8 May

2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o_pnWgdfSI. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Fulton, Wil. Is It Time To Lower The Drinking Age To 18? The Huffington Post,
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TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Apr. 2016,

www.huffingtonpost.com/thrillist/is-it-time-to-lower-the-d_b_9633254.html. Accessed

24 Feb. 2017.

History. MADD, 2015,

www.madd.org/underage-drinking/why21/history.html?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww

.google.com%2F. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.

History.com Staff. 18th And 21st Amendments. History.com, A&E Television Networks,

2010, www.history.com/topics/18th-and-21st-amendments. Accessed 3 Mar. 2017

Hunter, Aaron. Persuasive Speech: Against Lowering the Legal Drinking Age.YouTube,

YouTube, 19 Apr. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILznukLwIbo. Accessed 24 Feb.

2017.

Kamann, Matthias. The Swedes and Alcohol - about Drinking in Sweden. Hej Sweden, 22 May

2013, hejsweden.com/en/the-swedes-and-alcohol-about-drinking-in-sweden/. Accessed

14 Mar. 2017.

McMullen, Judith G. Underage Drinking: Does Current Policy Make Sense?Marquette

University, 1 Jan. 2006,

scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1094&context=facpub.

Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Responsibility, Choose. Drinking and Culture: International Comparisons. Choose

Responsibility, www.chooseresponsibility.org/drinking_and_culture/. Accessed 5 Mar.

2017.

Rossner, Albert. Drinking Age - Does it Need to be Lowered? Personal Interview. 21 February
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2017.

State History of MLDA 21, 1933-Present - Minimum Legal Drinking Age -

ProCon.org.Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?, 10 Mar.

2016, drinkingage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004484. Accessed 17 Mar.

2017.

Wechsler, Henry, and Toben F. Nelson. Will Increasing Alcohol Availability By Lowering the

Minimum Legal Drinking Age Decrease Drinking and Related Consequences Among

Youths? American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, June

2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2866588/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2017.

Anna, you have a lot of great, varied resources here. Your information is great, but your

topic sentences and organization could be stronger. Several times, you devote large

paragraphs to several different topics. Break these up and develop stronger topic

sentences. Also, some of the research you provide to support your claims is a little

unclear and hard to connect. Finally, make sure you provide a future outlook. Your paper

seems to stop too abruptly. Good information and great research...you just need tighter

organization. 90/100