Opinion: The US legal drinking age should be re-evaluated

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 11, 2022
Art by Jenna Maue


Art by Jenna Maue

In Europe, the legal drinking age is 18 years old while in the United States it is 21 years old. Many people believe that the US law should be changed to also be 18 years old because that is when you become a legal adult in the US. So I beg the question: what’s the harm in following Europe’s lead?

 Interestingly enough, individual states have different rules regarding drinking. In Wisconsin, for example, you can be 18 and legally consume alcohol if you are with a parent or legal guardian. This varies compared to Illinois where you must be 21 or older to consume alcohol.

 That all being said, there have been many debates over time to get the legal drinking age down to 18 instead of 21. I believe that these arguments should be seriously considered because most adults from 18 up to 20 are already consuming alcohol illegally. According to a 2019 Center of Disease Control (CDC) study, 29 percent of high school students drank alcohol in the last 30 days. I am not at all saying that I condone underage drinking but I do believe the age restriction needs to be reevaluated, specifically in regards to college students. 

Most students coming into college are now 18 or are about to turn 18, making them legal adults and fully responsible for their actions in the eyes of the law. Not only do they learn to live on their own, but they learn to take responsibility for their actions as well as develop new communities for themselves to be supported and grow in. Because you are on your own in college you have access to a vast supply of activities and different sources of entertainment that you did not have when you were living at home. 

One of the cultural norms of university culture is drinking or to a more extreme extent, drugs. According to a 2021 USA Study, half of America’s 5.4 million college students consume alcohol or abuse drugs at least once a month. Parents try to make sure they raise a well behaved individual in hopes that when they go out into the real world, they will act accordingly and not be tempted by the new things that the new atmosphere offers.

 The problem is the assumption that a well-behaved kid won’t drink alcohol. It’s a complete contradiction, especially if a parent reflects on all the times that they have consumed alcohol in front of their child. At any social event, both in casual and formal settings, there is a very high chance that drinking is involved. How can a parent expect their child, who now is a legal adult, to not want to have the same privileges as one too?

Now that is not to say that there aren’t dangers to drinking, because there are many that school systems can do better to educate their students on, but rather there are risks that are going to be taken either way. If young and legally fresh adults are going to be treated as adults in the eyes of the law, then they should also be granted the same privilege of consuming alcohol.

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