It seems that every place that’s worth being in is designed for people aged 21 and over. Just last week I was trying to find a spot to celebrate my birthday, only to find that there are very few establishments in the NYC nightlife aimed for the 18 and over clientele. I guess the fun stuff is reserved for 21+ crowd.
Not to sound cliched, but how is it that 21 seems to be the age where one is finally considered to be an adult? At 18, we have the right to vote and the ability to serve in the army, and moreover we could be drafted if the need arises. Everywhere else in the world, 18 is the “legal” age. Where did America get the number 21?
How is it that drinking is reserved for 3 years after one is allowed to vote? Does this limitation suggest that drinking requires more maturity and life experience than what is required to make the decision to vote? In the U.S., the legal drinking age is 21 rather than the widely accepted 18 elsewhere, for example in European countries. That’s why most lounges, clubs and other nightlife businesses ID for 21 and older – they want to make money on alcohol sales to the legal age group.
So, following American logic, if laws are made to protect the public, then the elevated drinking age will protect minors from abusing the privilege by getting intoxicated. But who said that making something illegal will prevent it from happening? In the early 1900’s, the attempt to ward off the negative affect of alcohol from the public resulted in the 18th Amendment to the constitution, which turned into an experiment that came to be known as the prohibition. As history shows, during that period of time there was a massive underground movement of alcohol sale, transport and distribution. In fact, the amendment was repealed just 14 years after it was added because it did not serve its purpose. It seemed to have the opposite effect on alcohol use: drinking was not eliminated, but crime rose via the black market in the “Roaring Twenties.”Likewise, proponents of lowering the legal drinking age say that such a law would provide at least some control over youthful consumption; whereas a law prohibiting the practice would only move the process out of the public eye rather than eliminating it. According to an article by ABC News Group, “The current drinking age has just driven the drinking out of public view,” McCardell told ABC News. “It has meant that instead of drinking in bars or restaurants where there is supervision, it’s happening in dorms and dark corners.”
I’m in no way advocating the legalization of illicit substances with the aim of lowering or eliminating their use altogether. Even though alcohol falls into the category of drugs, it is one that is most commonly seen in everyday life. People continue to use it despite the possibility of intoxication; and more often because of it. There are health warnings against it, but it is often seen as “the least of the drugs” and is consistently used at social functions.
Perhaps the argument “the earlier you start the sooner you learn” is not the best one to make on this difficult issue, but it is something to think about. Like most things in life, there needs to be a moderate approach to every situation. In this case, I think that it is fair to compare the legal voting versus the legal drinking age. And my standpoint here is that America should match with the rest of the world and make these two equivalent: age 18.