Should the US Drinking Age be Lowered to 18?

The current U.S. drinking age of 21 is not working, according to more than 100 college and university presidents. They have signed a statement calling for a public debate to rethink and lower the drinking age to 18:

"Kids are going to drink whether it's legal or illegal," said Johns Hopkins President William R. Brody, who supports lowering the drinking age to 18. "We'd at least be able to have a more open dialogue with students about drinking as opposed to this sham where people don't want to talk about it because it's a violation of the law." [...]

Several students interviewed yesterday at Johns Hopkins said lowering the drinking age could reduce binge drinking. "I think alcohol is seen, a lot of times, as a forbidden thing, and people want it," said Jamie Hittman, 20, a junior from Columbia. "It's almost like contraband. Once you get it, you have to drink all of it."

Katie Buckheit, 19 and also a junior, said if people were exposed to drinking at a younger age, they would be more mature about it. "Maybe I'm being idealistic, but in Europe you can drink once you can see the bar," she said. "I think we should maybe take a lesson from
what other countries are doing."

But Laura Kranish, an 18-year-old sophomore from Silver Spring, said students would drink as much they do no matter what the drinking age is.,0,3214922.story

What do you think? Should the drinking age in the US be lowered to 18? Would that help reduce binge drinking or lead to higher alcohol-related accidents?

what about the fact that at 16, US citizens can carry guns and kill people but not be allowed to drink until 21? isn't there a huge loophole in that kind of reasoning?
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high school kids will still start drinking at 16, so it really won't change much. Freshmen in college will not have to fear getting a MIP. The police forces in college towns will have less money from fines.
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I live in Manitoba, Canada, where the legal drinking age has been 18 for years. I can say from personal experience that people of that age (and younger) will drink to excess, whether it's legal or not. The advantage to having a younger age of majority is that at least that drinking will take place in a controlled environment, with security staff and trained bartenders who (at least hypothetically) are required to cut people off if they've drunk too much. Further, it's always baffled me that the United States will entrust people to vote, enter into contracts, and go to war at 18, but not let them have a beer. No offence, but if a person is legally an adult, shouldn't they be allowed to make adult decisions regarding alcohol? I'm not saying that the Canadian method is perfect, but overall it seems to work out alright for us.
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I was an RA in the dorms I went to. There were a few people of legal age on my floor, and they spent most of their time sneaking the younger people drinks.

I agree with these administrators. Lowering the age might not reduce drinking as much, but it would make it easier to talk about this with people. Because of the RA rules I officially had to do everything possible to discourage drinking and couldn't talk honestly about it, when that really just forced people away into the frats.
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Yeah, exactly Scroobius. Once all of the hype about breaking the law and disobeying parents is done, I think teen drinking (at least all the incidents that go with it) will gradually decrease. I'm 20 and I drink responsibly. But I can't count the number of my friends that have either become alcoholics by partying so much when they were young because they thought it was cool, or they waited until they were 21 and by that time, it had consumed them and they drank as much as they could all the time, just because they could now.
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I married my wife in Indiana when she was 18 and I was 21, thus effectively keeping myself from seeing any bands or going to any bars for 3 years. I found it utterly absurd, not to mention extremely frustrating, that she was not allowed to so much as enter a bar and yet she was sanctioned by the state to breed kiddies.

Most other nations don't have the binge drinking problems the US does with teenages. Here is it taboo, so it must be good- just like sex. In Canada, etc, alcohol is just alcohol.

When I lived in the Dominican Republic they'd sell or serve anyone who was old enough to ask for and pay for a drink- no child binge drinkers there, though I did sometimes see a kid having a beer with dinner with their parents or a kid buying beer with some groceries at the market as part of the family's daily shopping.
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I don't think it would change drinking behaviors all that much. The age should be lowered,though. It's ridiculous that people are allowed to vote, get married, be held responsible for debts, be sent to adult prison, serve in military combat, and have most all of the other adult responsibilities, but not be trusted to make their own decisions about alchohol. Either the drinking age needs lowered or the age limit on everything else needs raised. It's hypocritical to say that 18-20 year olds are kids on that issue, and adults on most every other issue. As long as the law burdens them with most every adult responsibility, they should be open to most every adult freedom.
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College administrators only want the drinking age lowered because if ever student on campus can legally drink, the school won't be sued when freshmen die of alcohol poisoning. This is just CYA.

As someone who has lived in the US, where you can drive before you can drink, and Europe, where people often start to drink before learning to drive, I think the answer is to separate the two completely. Give everyone in the US above 18 a choice: a license to drink, or a license to drive. No one should legally be able to do both.
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I've spent quite a bit of time in Germany and quite a bit of time in Russia, both have low (relative to the US) drinking ages. One country has a massive binge drinking problem (really among all age groups), the other doesn't. It's not a matter of drinking age, it's a matter of other social factors and what society does.

As for your second point about choosing one, well that's the most absurdly moronic thing I've heard all day that doesn't have to do with McCain vs Obama.
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I've always said as much. In Europe, where I live, the legal drinking age is completely irrelevant, because noone makes a big deal about it like they do in the States. I had my first drink of Vodka at 15, and then six months later I probably had my second drink, and neer gave it a second thought. I started college before I was 18, and there I was taught my drinking limits (by getting drunk a few times and singing around campus like an idiot.) When I got my driver's license, I knew what one glass of wine or beer or whatever would do to me. I was totally capable of knowing when I was in condition to drive and when I wasn't, because I knew alcohol waaaay before I had a license to to drive a 1-ton killing machine.

In the US kids can drive at 16, sometimes younger. The very first time they can get drunk (legally), they will have car keys in their hands, and no personal experience warning them that they are in no condition to drive.

In the States there is such an alcoholism problem, and I'm sure it's because alcohol is such a taboo. Remove the taboo and you remove the appeal!
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Raise 'em all and add one:

Military age: 21
Drinkin' age: 21
Votin' age: 21
Smokin' legalized MJ age: 21

As our life expectancy is extended it only makes sense to tweak these upwards. If 50 is the new 40 (or whatever), then let's make 21 the new 18.
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I agree with mike_nc even if he is funny looking.

I bought beer when I was 18 and ended up quit drinking by my 20's. We were not a stupid as they are now.

Now days the drinking and driving is a problem. Also the drinking till you puke and pass out is just stupid.

The mental problems with youth now days is the problem. They act like they are 14 till they are almost 30.

If they can join the army, they should be able to drink a beer.
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I agree with lowering the drinking age to 18. Most kids are still living at home around the time they turn 18, so there's at least someone in their lives whose job it is to watch out for them. After that age, a lot more young people are on their own, in college, or otherwise out from under the watchful eye of their parents.
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Part of me says lower it to 18. If you can go off and fight for your country, and die, you should be able to get soused.

Then the other part of me says we've already got enough idiots driving drunk and killing people on the road at 21, why would you ever lower it?

Here's an idea...let's decriminalize marijuana. That way, you get rid of bar fights, driving drunk, most domestic violence, etc. There worst thing you'd have to deal with then is a severe case of the munchies.
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As a person who drank at 16, I can see the merit of lowering the age.
Truly, alcohol is a social lubricant, and may still be valued as such.

Conversely, and this will get me drug into the street and shot, we could raise the minimum age for 'responsible activities' (drinking, marriage, etc.) to 22 or 23. That gives enough time for students to get a 4 year degree before being allowed to drink. I also believe that anyone should be allowed inside of bars as a designated driver and simply not served alcohol.

To some degree I would prefer to have the drinking age lowered to 16 but have the driving age raised to 18. I would also like to have a driving age cutoff or mandatory proficiency exams after a particular age. Any FARK reader sees crashes into farmers' markets almost as much as DUI.
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Here's a thought, why not just get rid of age limits all together and just punish abusers severely? As it is now the punishments don't fit the crimes. A little weed and you go to jail, yet drive drunk and you get a ticket and have to attend drivers school. I say drive drunk once, that's it you don't drive EVER AGAIN. Drunk/high in public, spent 3 days in jail. If you allow responsible use, and make life hell for abuser, people won't abuse. Plus just think of the career opportunities we'd open up as we stripped all people who lost their licenses to being above the legal limit. Plus public transportation could use the new customers.
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I'm almost twenty-one so I don't really care. Raising the driving age might be a good idea, I just got my license and my first car a month ago. I can't imagine having a car at the age of sixteen, I was monumentally stupid four years ago. Then again I may feel the same way in another four years.
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Being still underage (by a few months), and having drank for my first 1.5 years of college, without struggles to finding someone to purchase alcohol... I don't personally care. I go bored with drinking already. A good ol' glass of wine once in a while is good, or a bottle of good beer, but other than that, drinking isn't for me. I think if it were lowered, many other people would come to my conclusion and not binge drink as much as they do.

It is a good stress reliever for some college students...
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Have the drinking age LOWER than the driving age (raising the driving age or lowering the drinking age or both...). Lowering the drinking age to 18 will entice the high schoolers to binge drink. Lowering it to 14 will entice the middle schoolers...but at least then, they don't have a logical reason for getting behind the wheel. Binge drinking is rooted mostly from the allure that alcohol is taboo. The earlier kids learn that drink's aren't magical (because of its illegal quality), they more likely they'll drink responsibly. My drinking habits changed drastically after I turned 21. I bet most of my friends would say the same thing.
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an 18 yr old commits a crime and is tried in adult court...but he can't drink like an adult. so i say raise the adult age to 21 and keep the drinking age the same.
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Everyone drinks underage. Finally someone supports it. If the age is lowered I can finally stop worrying that I’m going to end up on drunkenly rambling about my Linguistics professor.
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Why lower the age to match the driving/voting/marriage/armed forces - raise ALL of them to match the drinking age. (or make them all age 20?)
If New Zealand and Australia are anything to go by, there will be more binge drinking and alcohol related problems if the age is lowered.
Unless your country can communicate and teach the responsibility needed, I don't see it being any different.
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I say lower it. If I am eligible at 18 to vote, serve in the military, pay taxes, be tried as an adult, get married, purchase firearms, and serve on a jury, then I should also have the right at 18 to have a drink. I am not saying I want to get drunk, and I wouldnt drive drunk, but Americans should be allowed to drink at 18.
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Congress should at least remove their blackmail that virtually requires states to have the law at 21 to get their full highway fund money. Letting states decide what they want is the proper federalist answer.
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in the Netherlands the age ristriction is 16 for beer/wine and 18 for annything distilled. To be able to buy legal weed you have to be 18 also. Driverslicence can be obtained at 18. That being said: ive never been into a bar fight, nor am i an alcoholic. 21 seems way to high in my eyes.
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I studied abroad in London and saw tons of first year students (18 - the legal drinking age) come stumbling in EVERY night - in other words, the low drinking age definitely did NOT make them more mature drinkers!! So I really feel that is a myth. I agree with the idea of raising the military age to 21 though!
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The 21 drinking age is great for the same reason insanely low speed limits and pot bans are great:

It's obviously stupid, and it gives young people a strong foundation of distrust of government.
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I joined the military at age 17 and I felt the exact same way.
But,now that I'm an antique I feel completely the opposite. I know how irresponsible that age can be.
Owning a gun at age 16 id not a valid arguement. Add a drunk 18 year old with a gun into the mix and you have a drunk who will roadrage, shoot the other driver, then wrap his dumb young drunk gun toting ass around a tree on the way home.
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i say ratchet the age down a year at a time, to lessen the shock of three years worth of people diving in at once.

Also, greatly increase the penalties for drunk driving in the same legislation that lowers the drinking age.
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The current drinking laws are bigoted, making second-class citizens out of 18-year-olds. You're either an adult, or you're not. This is a classic result of paternalism, the quaint notion of protecting peopm themselves.
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Allen G said:

"Congress should at least remove their blackmail that virtually requires states to have the law at 21 to get their full highway fund money. Letting states decide what they want is the proper federalist answer."

Hear, hear to your "at least".

I see a lot of people giving opinions about what the legal age for drinking should be, but I think legislating a legal age at all is absurd and offensive... much more so when that age is above the age of majority. The government should not be legislating personal morality to adults, nor should the government be co-opting the role that belongs to parents.

By "legislating personal morality" I mean criminalizing victimless actions and writing laws designed to protect adults from themselves. We already have laws against driving while intoxicated, so we don't need laws against getting intoxicated, an act which in and of itself puts nobody at risk but the intoxicated person. ALL recreational drugs should be legal for adults to use as they see fit... prohibition didn't work with alcohol and it doesn't work with marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, or any other recreational substance. All the statistics show that the "War on Drugs" that began in the Reagan administration has been a massive and very costly failure, not unlike the failed war on alcohol that we waged from 1920 to 1933.

Some Mrs. Grundy type is bound to reply to this with some outraged comments about how drug addicts steal and rob to get money for drugs, and then go on to claim that decriminalizing drugs would result in a tidal wave of such lawlessness. The fact of the matter, however, is that the price of recreational drugs is artificially high (extremely so) precisely because they are illegal. If the cost of heroin actually reflected the cost of producing it, transporting it, and retailing it, a junkie would be able to get his daily fix for around fifty cents, and thus would have no need to steal or rob in order to satisfy his jones. Remove the laws against sales, possession, and use, and you remove the artificially high cost. Remove the artificially high cost, and you remove the impetus to steal.

Mrs. Grundy will also stridently point out that legalizing all drugs would result in a huge rise in drug use, and in drug overdoses. The opposite is true... remove the taboo factor, and drug use will go down, not up. Supply drug enthusiasts with pharmaceutical quality product that does not vary wildly in strength and purity the way street drugs do, and overdoses (along with other health problems induced by drug use) will plummet.

As for alcohol specifically... personally, I plan on giving my 16-month-old son a small glass of wine or beer with his dinner on a regular basis, starting when he's about ten years old. I want him to have no curiosity on the subject of booze, and I want him to be familiar enough with the effects that he won't overdo it when he's older in some futile search for a good time. Forbidden fruit has a powerful allure, especially for kids.
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I forgot to mention:

I see a lot of comments from people who assume that lowering the drinking age will somehow magically result in more people drinking. Are you folks for real? User DOJ wrote a comment recommending that we lower the drinking age a year at a time, "to lessen the shock of three years worth of people diving in at once". This is not a view that is in touch with reality. Do you actually believe that the current law against drinking before you're 21 stops 20-year-olds, 19-year-olds, or 18-year-olds? All it does is keep them out of bars and liquor stores, unless they happen to have a convincing-enough fake ID, or they happen to be frequenting one of the many establishments that are somewhat lax on carding people who aren't obviously too young.
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what does the military have to do with any of this? this story is about binge drinking on college campuses. if anyone thinks that lowering the age limit will help the problem is crazy.

the only thing lowering the age limit will do is find out who has a drinking problem sooner
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I think that the problems with binge drinking in America have almost nothing to do with the legal age that one can purchase and drink alcohol and everything to do with the lack of communication and education about alcohol and responsible use. As long as the cultural mores place a lot of importance in the ability to drink oneself drunk and the glamour of drinking there are going to be young adults who cannot make wise decisions reguarding alcohol.
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Drinking licenses folks!
1. Few hours of safe-use class
2. Permit that allows you to drink with your parents @17
3. Full license that allows you to drink at will @18

You can lose your license if you abuse it, no matter your age. DWI, DUI, Public Intoxication etc.
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no license, sorry. you don't get a card congratulating you that you're an adult. you get a new ID, but woopty-doo. you carry that thing with you the rest of your life. hooray for adulthood!

the drinking age should definitely be lowered, though. if you get a DWI when you're under-age, you get slapped with a much larger penalty than if you're of age. also, your blood alcohol level has to be less than 0.01, so you're screwed if you rinse with f*cking listerine. when you're of age, you'll get slapped with a fine, get your license revoked for a while, have to serve probation (the same as if you're underage), but your blood alcohol level has to be below 0.08. my buddy got f-ed the other day, of course it was his fault for driving like a dick and drinking, but he had like A beer and they took him in under false pretenses. if the drinking age is lowered, i think some teenagers will avoid the binge drinking and learn some discipline before they get slapped with a huge legal liability. i don't know, it makes more sense. i think the more you limit someone from doing something the more they just want to do it.
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Hey, let's legalize murder and rape while we're at it since "some people do it anyways."
What a stupid reason.
How about instead we raise our children better and teach them virtue?
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Sigh wrote:

"Hey, let’s legalize murder and rape while we’re at it since 'some people do it anyways.'
What a stupid reason."

What a stupid comment. Murder and rape are crimes against others; putting a forbidden substance into your body hurts nobody but you. You don't see the difference?

Sigh wrote:

"How about instead we raise our children better and teach them virtue?"

Right, how about WE do that and not the legislative branch of the government? While we're teaching them 'virtue' (whatever you happen to mean by that), maybe we could also give them enough factual information about drugs and alcohol that they won't be tantalized by the prospect of trying to find a good time in a forbidden bottle... as opposed to the lies and distortions that we currently expect kids to believe, or the total information blackout on the subject that many parents hand them.

First they told me about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Jesus, and the Boogy Man... then they told me that I'd ruin my life if I smoked pot.
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I think the ages established in the US for certain activities are very enlightening as to how your society veiws the young.

You can own a gun at 16

You can join the Armed forces at 18 or 17 with parentla consent.

You can Drive a car at 16.

You can have sex at 18.

You can drink alcohol at 21.

So you'd be able to drive a car legally for 5 years before having a beer legally.

Ever noticed that youngsters who drink tend to screw up and come home with sick down their fronts? Incapable?

And that's them walking.

Yet it is seens as being a good move to be able to get drunk and have the car so habituated into their world view that they'll automatically try to drive.

Also you can own a gun and legally shoot people, under certain circumstances, for 2 years before you can have sex?

The US is seriously screwy.
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Drinking at age 18? I can't see much of a difference between the two. Sure it may reduce binge drinking, but it's simply not realistic to lower the age by a few years. We need a complete cultural overhaul. You cannot expect a law to do the work in enforcing itself. We need parental figures to do that job, not the government. Simply put, we need to allow parents to determine the drinking age for their children. Sure there may be a few screwy folks out there that will get their kids drunk before age 8, but that's the worst case scenario in that specific situation. By allowing parents to regulate legal drinking for their children by say, a very very small glass of wine for dinner, we will be setting up a more responsible approach to drinking.
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Either the drinking age should be lowered to 18 or the age to enlist should be raised to 21. It does not make sense to say you are old enough to die for your country but not mature enough to drink responsibly.
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It's all part of the all knowing nanny state at work.
Drinking age, seat belt & helmet laws, no trans fats or smoking in restaurants. Many of these regulations are made by unelected civil service bureaucrats.

Somebody knows better than you what's good for you. Just not you.

THIS is the creeping fascism everyone should be afraid of.
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Honestly, I was in favor of it but then I put aside the hype and I think its best if it is kept at 21. There are lots more kids who don't get booze but want it - maybe the kids who dont go to parties or whatever. And imagine all the drunk kids on the roads! THey think they are invincible and will be drunk doing dangerous things, more importantly, endangering other people.

I am 18 and I feel it should be kept at 21.
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no way should they lower the age of drinking. teenagers already bust their butts off to get alcohol and we still have many drunk-driving accidents and over the limit problems. If you give more teenagers easy access then they can get it easily and abuse the privlidge easily. It's a terrible idea and some day people will come to relize it!
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When peope are treated like adults, and able to drink in establishments where good behaviour is expected, they will rise to the occasion and drink responsibly.
When drinking is outlawed, people will drink to get drunk, at woodsies or house parties, and act irresponsibly.
Here in Australia, 18 year olds go to the pub, and for the most part behave themselves. The goal is to spend time with friends, not to get smashed.
And to counter the MADD people argument about drunk driving, just get a few more random breath tests on the road. That will get drunks off the road fast than a dumb drinking age.
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i grew up tasting alcohol my father was having a beer he would let me sip it (im 19 and i brew my own beer) its not very hard anyone with half a brain can make their own beer at home so getting drunk without buying alcohol in a store isn't a problem i think the problem is people who grow up not having alcohol and then all of sudden in college they see alcohol lets binge that probly causes problems

theirs my 2 cents
ps i live in Israel and the drinking age is 18 there
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