Wrong drinking age?
We’re in pretty select company here in the U.S.: We’re one of a small handful of nations in the world that believe people can’t be trusted to drink or buy alcohol until they’re 21 years old.
Think about that, folks. I know you’ve heard these arguments before, but listen to me, and don’t just reject them out of hand: You can join the military at age 18, and possibly die for your country in Iraq or Afghanistan. You can own property at 18, cast your vote for the candidate of your choice at 18. You can drive a car — a huge, powerful, potentially lethal machine — at 16! But if you want to have a beer, you’d better not let the minions of the law catch you doing it before your 21st birthday, or it’s big trouble, boy!
By contrast, in the Americas North and South, 22 countries allow drinking and buying at age 18. Antigua says you can buy and hoist one at 16. In Canada, it’s either 18 or 19, depending on which province you’re in. Cuba has no legal consumption age; you can buy at 16. In Haiti, you can do both at 16.
Honduras is the only Western Hemisphere that agrees with us, allowing consumption at 21. But you can buy at 18. Bet everybody obeys that law!
In Paraguay, the limits are 20 for drinking, 18 for buying — another combination that makes no sense.
Twelve countries in Europe have the age 18 combination for drinking and purchasing. Albania has no laws at all regarding purchase or consumption. Sixteen countries have no minimum drinking age. And in most of the United Kingdom (Britain) you can drink at age 5 (f-i-v-e) legally if you do it at home with mommy and daddy’s consent.
Only the Ukraine delays drinking and purchasing legally until age 21.
Most of the other handful of countries that delay encounters with alcohol until age 21 are those with Muslim majorities.
We didn’t used to have such uniformity of drinking ages in the U.S. In fact, some state ages were lowered from 21 to 18 in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during the Vietnam War turmoil and its aftermath. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, pressure mounted from various groups — especially Mothers Against Drunk Driving — to raise the age across the board on the belief that it would cut down on drunk driving deaths. And after the nationwide 21-years limit was passed in 1984, the federal government enforced it by threatening to withhold federal highway funds if all the states didn’t fall into line.
Eventually, they did. And yes, there has been a decline in DWI-related deaths in the last 20-odd years. But is it directly related to the higher drinking age? Or is it more due to better-constructed cars, the use of seat belts, and a raised awareness of the dangers of drunk driving on the part of the populace?
Even Candy Lightner, the founder of M.A.D.D., later parted company with the organization in the belief that it was too fixated on getting the legally intoxicated level reduced again and again, and not willing to concentrate on the minority of DWI drivers who are grossly intoxicated and who cause most of the fatal accidents.
Well, there is the first of my Corporal’s Corner columns. My thinking on this subject is, while we shouldn’t rush to a judgment one way or the other, we should certainly think about a reduction of the drinking age to 18 — and perhaps a way to help teach young people who WANT to drink, to do so moderately and safely. Hey, folks, it’s a legal product. We are treating it as if it isn’t. That makes no sense. Go back!
Old Corporal Wrong drinking age?’, – Monday, March 17, 2008 at 17:15:42 (EDT)
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