Sunday, July 25, 2010



Written by: Mike in DA
Date Posted: July 25, 2010

Every once in a while on local sports talk shows or even talk shows in general, the following topic comes up, such as it did last Sunday (July 18) on the SportsRadio 610 afternoon show with N.D. Kalu and Kyle Kennedy. The topic that I am referring to is when someone argues that the legal drinking age should be lowered to 18.

These clowns come up with arguments that if eighteen years of age is the legal age to fight for your country and to vote for politicians, then why shouldn't you be able to drink a beer or any other alcoholic beverage if you want to? Since you are "technically" an adult at 18, why shouldn't you be allowed the same rights and privileges as someone who is 21-years-old?

I can see those as possible arguments, but there is more to think about when it comes to the subject of alcohol. Alcohol is still considered a dangerous drug today. Every year, it is ranked as one the most common causes of death for teens and young adults and it doesn’t stop there. Kids who start with alcohol at an early age put themselves at high risk for a bunch of health and safety problems including: car accidents; alcohol and possibly drug abuse; early sexual activity/STD/pregnancy; poor performance in school; stress, depression, and suicide; health problems like cirrhosis, hypertension, cancer, etc.; and even criminal behavior.

As a result, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are not only adult problems — they also affect a number of teens/adolescents under the age of 20, even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal.

All you have to do is google terms like, “causes of young adult/teenager deaths”, “alcohol related problems young adults/teenagers”, etc., etc., etc. and so on and so forth, but my purpose here is not to preach to you about the evils or disadvantages of alcohol use by adolescents with all kinds of stats and statements from various studies on the topic over the years.

And let's be honest about it, it's not as if people don't start drinking underage as it is. High school and college kids have had no problem getting their hands on alcohol in the past and won’t have any problems getting their hands on alcohol in the future, even with the legal drinking age at 21. When I was growing up in the late 50’s as a teen, many of my friends/schoolmates had already experimented with alcohol by the eighth grade whether it was at a party, wedding, bar mitzvah, sneaking into the closet where mom and dad hid their supply of liquor, or taking a cold beer out of the fridge.

The key to the safe enjoyment of alcohol is to make sure that the drinkers are mature enough to make responsible decisions, such as knowing when enough is enough and designating a designated driver. This maturity comes with age, especially on a college campus. Lowering the drinking age would give underclassmen the ability to go to bars, which is just one more distraction from their schoolwork. Those who want to drink alcohol will find a way, but by keeping the drinking age at 21, maybe we can discourage at least a small number of kids from drinking before they are ready.

Speaking of the military, back in the day, anyone on active duty could drink alcoholic beverages on military installations, regardless of the legal drinking age off-base.

However, in the 1980s, groups, such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunken Drivers) and other advocacy groups pressured Congress to change this. Federal law now requires military base commanders to adopt the same drinking age as the state the military base is located in, which now is 21 in all states. The only exception to this rule is if the base is located within 50 miles of Canada (18 or 19 years of age depending on the province) or Mexico (18 years of age). In that case, the base commander may adopt the lower drinking age for military personnel on base.

Up to 70 or 80 years ago, it was not uncommon for kids to start taking on adult responsibility in their teens. There were thirteen-year-olds already doing a man's work in the fields or a woman's work in the house. (During the Depression, my father dropped out of school and went to work at age 14.) Some  teenagers actually had responsibility over certain areas of the family business and some in their mid-to-late teens married and already had kids by then. Those young people knew what adult responsibility was and could handle it.

In today's American society, we have stretched childhood out to the late twenties and even early thirties. Someone who would have been considered middle age in my grandparents’ generation is often still childish and bearing a child's responsibility in this generation. If you don't believe me, you're not looking hard enough. How the heck are they ready to take on more responsibility than young people in earlier generations who were expected to grow up quicker. Lowering the drinking age means that we will have more drunk-driving deaths and alcohol-related problems than we already do. Statistics don't lie. Kids today should take on many other, smaller responsibilities before they start drinking alcohol.

Alcohol actually affects teens differently than adults. A teenager may look like an adult physically and may even appear in better physical condition, but the teenager’s body is still developing according to the American Medical Association (AMA) article I just read. It actually takes less alcohol for a teenager to get drunk than it does for an adult in his twenties. The article claims that a normal adult’s liver can safely process an estimated 50 alcohol calories an hour (one ounce of 40 percent alcohol). However, studies show that a teenager’s liver can only process half that amount before he experiences harmful effects. To ingest only 25 alcohol calories per hour, a teenager could drink no more than one-fourth of a “light” beer over the course of an hour.

As mentioned above, there are those who will argue: "If I'm old enough to go to war, I should be old enough to drink."

However, many rights and privileges have different minimum ages. In many states, a kid can obtain a hunting license at 12-years-old and drive an auto at age 16. U.S. citizens can vote and serve in the armed forces at 18, serve in the U.S. House of Representatives at 25, serve in the U.S. Senate at 30, and be the President of the U.S. at 35.

Other rights/privileges that are regulated include the sale and use of tobacco, and legal consent for fucking and marriage. Businesses, such as auto rental companies and hotels, also have a  minimum age for a person to use their services - 25 years old to rent a car and 21 years old to rent a hotel room. The minimum age is often based on the specific behaviors involved and must take into account the dangers and benefits of that behavior at a given age. I don’t see anybody complaining about lowering those ages.

The minimum age is also based on physical development, including brain function. The military recruits 18-year-olds right out of high school because they are young, impressionable, and can be easily trained. This does not mean these 18-year-olds are ready for alcohol use.

Currently, the minimum drinking age on a military installation located outside the United States in a war zone is 18 years of age. So, if anyone wants to legally drink before the age of 21, I suggest that he/she join the military and ask to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and drink to their heart's content. Other than that, shut up about reducing the drinking age.

Please note that this this blog is not an attack on alcohol itself, but it is better for everyone that we make teens wait until they are mature enough to handle it before we allow them to drink legally. If enjoyed responsibly, alcohol can be a healthy way for adults to relax and have fun with friends.

The following is a statement from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University: "A kid who reaches age 21 without abusing alcohol or using drugs is virtually certain never to do so."

Memo to talk show hosts: The next time a caller says the drinking age should be reduced to 18, tell them to read this article. 


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1 comment:

Lew Bryson said...

Love the massive appeal to reason.