The legal drinking age varies a great deal between different counties. In the UK the legal drinking age is currently 18, but in most states in the US, the legal drinking age for adults is 21. And in some parts of the world, drinking is illegal no matter what age you are!
Lowering the drinking age pros and cons are numerous and it remains a fairly contentious issue. Those who believe the drinking age should be lowered argue that not allowing teenagers to
drink legally until they turn 21 only encourages them to drink under less supervised conditions, whereas those against lowering the legal drinking age are convinced that teenagers are ill equipped physically and mentally to deal with the effects of alcohol.
Pros of lowering the legal drinking age
- The current age of majority for most things, including voting, joining the armed forces, signing contracts, and serving on a jury, is 18, therefore if a teenager is considered responsible enough to be an adult in most areas of life, it makes sense to also give them the responsibility for whether or not they wish to drink alcohol.
- Maintaining a relatively high legal drinking age of 21 only serves to encourage teenagers to drink in private, whether at home or at friends’ houses. Turning alcohol into ‘forbidden fruit’ only makes it more attractive whereas lowering the drinking age to 18 reduces the thrill factor and encourages teenagers to
drink in more socially acceptable environments, and therefore in moderation.
- Making it illegal for teens to drink before the age of 21 and thus driving underage drinking into the shadows will lead to more accidents and alcohol related deaths: teenagers who have been drinking are far less likely to seek help when things go wrong because they fear the consequences of being caught drinking illegally.
- Prohibiting consumption of alcohol between 1920 and 1933 in the US did nothing to prevent widespread drinking, which only serves to prove that trying to prevent teenagers drinking is unproductive and largely unenforceable.
Cons of lowering the legal drinking age
- Statistics in the United States show that in those states where the legal drinking age has been lowered to 18, there has been a considerable increase in the alcohol related road accidents amongst the 18-20 age group as a result.
- Teenagers are not mature enough to be able to drink responsibly. They are far more vulnerable to peer pressure and therefore much more likely to drink to excess than older people aged 21 and over.
- Alcohol usually has a negative effect on many areas in life and making it acceptable for teenagers to drink from the age of 18 is likely to impact on their education and academic performance at school and college.
- Teenagers in the US are allowed to drive from a much younger age compared to their peers in European countries, which means that if the legal drinking age is lower than the current age of 21, they are far more likely to step behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.