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There are 47 comments on POV: Legal Drinking Age of 21 Works. Deal with It.

  1. How about lowering the drinking age and improving public transport at the same time? As far as I can tell, this is only based on vehicle related deaths.

    Because young people have to drink in secret and avoid police, they binge drink and do irresponsible stuff like drive drunk.

    If the drinking age were lower, teenagers would have chances to enjoy a nice beer or mixed drink in a relaxing bar or restaurant, rather than only at parties.

    Europeans seem to do fine with a drinking age hovering around 14-16 on average.

    1. The cost to even maintain our current transit infrastructure today far exceeds our federal and state governments’ ability to keep up. Adding something as general as “improving public transport” to that is not financially viable for many (if not most) American cities. Even Boston is facing the same issue with extending late-night MBTA service—the need is there, but history has shown the money to be insufficient.

      Furthermore, improved public transit doesn’t occur overnight. It can take years; witness the two-year closure of Government Center and the three-year disruption to the Longfellow Bridge. Expensive projects with years of work… in just two places.

      Finally, I don’t think it’s true that if 16 year-olds could drink, they’d all get together for a nice cocktail at their neighborhood Chili’s. The urge for humans to congregate and make-merry (read: have a party) is not something teenagers invented in the thirty years since Reagan.

      (All this doesn’t rule out a progressive roll-back however… first to 20, then maybe lower depending on how that goes).

      1. I live in the Balkans which is in the Eastern part of Europe. I had my first drink when i was 15. When i drink, i don’t drink to get drunk or wasted as most Americans do but rather to enjoy myself. The first fellow that commented on the article is making some good points. I can tell you based on my experiences when i was 16 that yes i did get together with my friends and go to bars. We didn’t have cocktails, instead we had beers.

        Lowering the drinking age to 20 would make no difference whatsoever. It needs to at least to 16.

    2. Europeans and Americans have radically different geography, transportation systems and policies, and socialization practices. For a myriad of reasons, you cannot compare American and European teenagers when it comes to drinking and how they get around.

      1. Good point, Steve. There are several differences. It’s not a good comparison.

        In regards to improving public transportation, We’re talking federal policy. In a big city like Boston or NYC, maybe that would work. I live in the greater Houston area. Even though it’s a big city everything is very spread out so it’s not walking accessible or conducive to a good public transportation system. This is especially true in the suburbs where there simply isn’t any public transportation. If Houston can’t do it, what about places like Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, etc? Federal policy needs to be apply to all states.

        Even though MVAs was the initial reason behind the current MLDA, I would argue that the MLDA is about more than DWIs and car accidents. The earlier regular alcohol use is initiated, the higher the risk of future addiction. Legal booze for high school seniors would increase access to high school freshman. One could argue that changing the drinking age won’t cause an increase in drinking among people under 18, but it’s not that simple. For instance, alcohol marketing executives have restrictions that prohibit advertising directly to youth due to the MLDA. Change the MLDA, that policy changes.

    3. Europeans have the right attitude when it comes to alcohol. The age of 21 is ridiculous to be able to drink. All of a sudden you will be able to drink at 21. That’s why we see people drink themselves to death all the time. Introducing alcohol at an earlier age is the key and to learn moderation. But in America it’s an all or nothing mentality. It’s the same with the treatment industry of alcohol. Total abstinence is the only way it’s a disease etc. This country doesn’t have a clue because it has the worst alcohol and drug problems in the world.

  2. Coming from a STUDENT that is actually witnessing these issues, I am going to have to disagree with you on this one. Sure, drunk driving fatalities have decreased but they are lower in all age groups and have declined just as much in Canada (where the age is 18 or 19) as they have in the US. Correlation is NOT cause! We have become more aware of the dangers of drinking and driving over recent years: cars are safer, seatbelts and airbags are mandatory, higher prices to pay for first-time DUI offenders, etc. THIS is what has kept drunk drivers off the roads, not the 21 legal age limit.

    The volume of binge drinking on college campuses is huge in this country, and noticeably smaller in Canada and certain European countries. And what’s worse…this is taking place behind closed doors, in NON-public locations-so as not to get caught-making it more likely for fatal results.

    No matter what you do or say, alcohol is going to be a reality in the lives of young adults. We can either try to change REALITY or try to create the safest possible environment for the reality we are in.

  3. Just a point of fact: You write, “John McCardell, the recently retired president of Middlebury College” — He has not been president since 2004. That is 10 years ago. Is that “recent?”

  4. I’m not sure I would have an issue with whatever age limit was set for drinking if our culture taught responsible drinking. Instead many people are told don’t drink until you’re 21 as if when you become 21 you know how to responsibly handle alcohol. I realize not everyone’s parents drink and not everyone’s parents want to make drinking look appealing or appropriate to their children. Such an aversion to educating pre-21-year-olds on how to properly drink, though, means that legal switch flips to “okay” when they are out from under parental supervision. Thus one of the advantages I see to an 18-year-old drinking age is that parents have the ability to supervise those first legal drinks and should – regardless of the age limit – be encouraged by public health officials, schools, churches, etc. to talk with – not to – their children about healthy alcohol usage.

  5. Fair points made on drunk driving crashes, but wouldn’t it make more sense for the the police crack down on drivers on weekend nights rather than focusing upon terrorizing students from socializing and partying. If the real concern is driving then that should be the focus, the vast majority of people partying are planning on getting home either via taxi, or newly implemented late night T service or simply walking.

    The policy of creating fear in the student body, does nothing other than promote pre-gaming and binge drinking, perhaps a happy medium can be reached where drinking will be done more responsibly and we can still see the effective prevention of driving under the influence.

    just some food for thought…

  6. Horse-***. I rather thank an eighteen year old serving the military and buy him a drink, even if, illegally. If society considers an 18 year old to be an adult, then treat them like it. Give them the ability to make their own decisions, even alcohol.

  7. “Between 1982 and 2007, the rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities for people ages 18 to 20 dropped 60 percent, whereas the rate for people ages 21 to 24 dropped only 44 percent.”

    So raising the legal drinking age effectively lowered traffic fatalities for those 18 to 20 by ~16%, right? If people ages 21 to 24 saw a 44% decrease in fatalities during that time but were still allowed to legally buy alcohol, then I’m guessing there were other factors (increased highway law enforcement, educational programs, etc.) that caused such a drastic drop.

    I really would’ve liked to see statistics from sources other than the NHTSA because it seems like the only negative consequences of young people drinking alcohol occur when driving intoxicated.

  8. This is the biggest load of crap on the subject that BUToday has rolled out yet. Instead of telling underaged students to “deal with it” (which only EVER encourages disobedience), why can’t you take the initiative to understand the perspective? Binge drinking in college is an act of disobedience— the mindset is almost always “I can’t go out and do this so I might as well stock up and get it out of the way” and that’s how students get seriously ill and face serious health risks. Don’t be so ignorant!

  9. “Not surprisingly, the law actually does deter a lot of young people from drinking until they reach their 21st birthday.”

    Is there some sort of citation for this?

    Yes, lives are saved with the higher drinking age, and that is obviously good. However doesn’t it point to some sort of cultural issue with alcohol if we have all these underage binge drinking issues? Shouldn’t those who drink be taught to drink socially and learn that getting drunk/tipsy should never be the goal when going out?

  10. Driving accidents aren’t the only metric that should be used to show whether the law is effective or not. What about sexual assault, alcohol poisoning, alcoholism rates, violent crime rates, and everything else related to alcohol that causes problems? I personally don’t have an issue with the 21 law but that bothered me about what they reported in the study. The study could have included more metrics but they weren’t included in this article.

  11. I have questions!

    It’s heartening to know that 900 lives are saved annually because people can’t drink until they’re 21. But people are also not being taught at a key age (adolescence) how to deal with alcohol responsibly. How does that affect the likelihood of alcohol abuse and alcoholism later in life? What about societal and personal problems that stem from them, including deaths resulting from drunk driving? Has anyone done a comparative, international, longitudinal study about that?

    I’m heartened by our youth’s clever avoidance of the authorities by use of designated drivers. Would a different drinking age combined with a strong advertising campaign about designated drivers being a good idea have similar end result, except with less hiding and more conversation?

    Of course, you couldn’t possibly be saying that legal definition of adulthood is absolutely the right definition ONLY by virtue of being law. What am I missing from your paragraph 5?

    Reagan’s laws clearly did good things for our death rates. What other factors might have come into play during the same time period? Advertising campaigns? Better education on the subject? High profile alcohol or other drug related deaths serving as reminders that this isn’t a joke? What if all those things had been implemented EXCEPT FOR the law? Would death rates have gone down in similar patterns?

    Sorry to hear about New Zealand. What’s the study there? Was it longitudinal, or did it only consider the first year or two after the law was changed, which could have been an adjustment period?

    Your last paragraph is even more troubling to me than the fact that this entire article was written by a public health researcher. Having a law that _completely prohibits_ drinking until age 21 with the intent of _partially curbing_ it doesn’t leave any room for gradual education on responsible use, except in the shadows.

  12. Before anyone misconstrues this, these are not actually quotes from BU, just a breakdown of how they react to students who choose to drink under age.

  13. Outright prohibition would reduce alcohol-related highway deaths EVEN MORE. Why not try that?

    It’s very easy to rationalize restricting the liberty of others.

    1. ^^^^^ exactly that. i was gonna say the same if someone else hadnt. in fact, we do know that prohibition, contrary to popular belief, did in fact stem the use of alcohol and alcohol related deaths in our country. however, that doesnt make it constitutional to restrict the liberties of adults. and yeah, it’s total bs that i could serve in the military and/or hold a full time job, but i can’t drink.

      it also would have been interesting if this blatantly biased article had included any analysis of how many resources are wasted by our government when they are arresting 18-20 year olds who are doing nothing wrong other than drinking alcohol.

  14. I agree that it does deter some from drinking as to its effect on frequency or amount that I don’t know. But one thing college is supposed to do is allow us as students to grow as adults. How are we supposed to do that when society says that we have to wait until senior year or for some after college just to be fully allowed to partake in consuming alcohol? Isn’t part of being an adult making choices and being responsible for the consequences? I know that someone might say that choosing to or not to drink illegally is a choice, but in reality it is the one thing that separates us from the real world i.e. after graduation. So why shouldn’t we have the choice to drink or not drink now?

  15. Prohibition saves lives too. Maybe alcohol ought to be outlawed for everybody? I’m sure it would decrease alcohol-related accidents further.

    Growing up is about freedom and responsibility. The freedom to, for example, choose not to go college; to sacrifice your life in war; or to have a darn drink.

  16. This POV is unreasonably bias towards the fatalities that result from drunk driving, but says very little for the college/binge drinking aspect. (After all, why would over 100 college presidents support a drinking age of 18 without any reasoning?) Yes, there is very strong evidence that supports the fact that the legal drinking age of 21 has lowered the number of drunk driving fatalities and this is a great thing. However, the trend of less drunk driving fatalities actually started in the 1970s during which car safety and seat belt laws were passed (the law which changed the drinking age was passed in ’84). Thus, the true empirical data that came from the 1984 law could have bias resulting from earlier legislation. Furthermore, more alcohol related deaths occur off the road than on it among youth (more than 3 out of 5 alcohol related deaths are off the road) [].
    I’m taking a leap of faith here, but I assume not too many college students drive during college and as a result, the drinking age of 21 has no true value to us. We are governed by a law that means very little to us and we require different laws that help us prevent dangerous aspects of drinking such as binge drinking. Taking a look at other countries around the world we find that by drinking with the family at an earlier age (and being introduced to alcohol not as a drug but as another form of drink), youths are far less likely to abuse alcohol.
    Will a lower drinking age work? Who knows? But as far as college students are concerned there is no evidence against it not working.

  17. Maybe if parents stopped spoiling their children and let them live a bit (i.e. stop hovering over them), drinking at a younger age wouldn’t be a problem. It’s difficult to isolate this issue. Most people don’t know how to drive, there are too many drivers on the road, the roads are poorly maintained and poorly lit, pedestrians jaywalk all the time, and police do not enforce any traffic laws but instead stand around doing nothing at all those useless construction jobs. This society is crap. It doesn’t make sense to even compare to places like Canada where the drinking age is lower because the whole thing is a mess.

  18. The evidence is clear, you have no facts. Textbook poor journalism, one study, focussed in one area does not solidify an argument. What kind of journalist are you. What kind of self gratifying argument is this. What a poorly defended article, this isn’t the opinion section.

    1. Maybe I am mistaken, but isn’t POV short for “Point of View”? As in, this article is this writer’s point of view. As in yes it absolutely is an opinion and is not, nor does it need to be, a strictly journalistic or factual exposition.

      1. And if someone has a poorly informed opinion that they’re going to broadcast online, people will call them out on it. This is how these things work. It was a poor article, so many of the comments are pointing this out.

  19. I also think this is a very biased report, with statistics that may in fact not be entirely objective. However, I would like to state from the point of view of student studying in Madrid (drinking age 18), that the culture of drinking here is very different. Parents usually introduce a glass of wine to their children at age 16, or pick them up from clubs at a certain time. This education and support does not encourage adolescents to drink more. In fact, every Spaniard I’ve met has said that it’s rare to see people drink to the point of throwing up. When they see such things, they usually assume it’s some dumb American. Why? Because there is no good adolescent alcohol education. Sex education has started in high school, why not alcohol education? Learning how to drink responsibly saves lives, not a 21+ age limit.

  20. I actually agree with this article. As far as the binge drinking aspect goes, there is a simple solution to that. Don’t drink underage. And wether your drinking underage or legally drink responsibly. The law is in place for a reason wether people agree with it or not. I didn’t even start drinking until I was 23 and I’m still here. Waiting an 5 years didn’t kill me. So waiting 3 more years shouldn’t be a problem. I think it’s a small price to pay for your safety as well as the safety of others.

  21. They should really compromise. Several countries, such as Germany, have it set up where you can purchase beer at one age and then hard alcohol at an other. The other issue with the drinking age is that it isolates friend groups. I have older friends who I can’t hangout with because they would rather go to a bar or a club to drink. Even if clubs would just lower the age to 18 or something where I could at least go in and hangout with my friends, or even just to be the responsible person, then I would be happier with the drinking age being 21. Also I disagree to the study saying that it is safer at 21. The only reason is because american’s are too dependent on cars. When college/high school students go on vacation we binge drink the hell out of it. Why? Because it’s legal and we have to make the most out of that week we’re their. If alcohol wasn’t so prohibited in our society we would have less problems. Look at France for instance. Alcohol is ingrained in their culture for day 1!. The Jews do it too! Socialize it where you can drink but be responsible about it. Don’t portray it in a “hunger games” situation where we have to all race to the keg at the start of the party to make sure we get the most that we can before it runs out.

  22. BU Today please give an unbiased view of the topic. Instead actually use relevant statistics on the specific issue you raise. This article is about the correlation between deaths of 18-21 year olds and the drinking age. Not driving under the influence.

    Possibly instead do a cross analysis on universities in other countries whose drinking age is 18. I wonder if in these institutions there is a correlation between lower drinking age and alcohol related deaths between the age of 18-21. From what you imply there should be a very clear correlation and people in the UK and Europe must be at a great loss.

    I would love to read such an article. If I wanted to read a biased naive rant I’d be on tumbler.

    Please keep BU Today to a higher regard.

    English native BU senior.

  23. I have always been against having a strict stance on the drinking age being 21. During my undergrad years I went to a college that was a dry campus. Nearby was another college that allowed kegs in the dorm rooms. An interesting comparison could be done between the two schools.

    At the other college, most people drank beer, considered relatively safe compared to liquor. At my school, which was a dry campus, people wanted more bang for their buck and consumed mostly liquor. Despite being a dry campus, the recycling bins were overloaded with vodka, gin, etc. each and every weekend.

    The net comparison between the two schools was (and still is today) the following: The school that allowed kegs in the dorms with a liberal drinking policy had minor issues, basically what you would expect at a college campus… loudness, parties in dorms, the occasional fight, etc. My school with the dry campus had much more binge drinking and many cases of students, especially freshmen, being taken to the hospital to get their stomaches pumped out. Being strict forced people to go underground and consume beverages with much higher content. Everclear was a popular drink at 95% alcohol. This extreme behavior was almost unheard of at the neighboring college that allowed beer.

  24. I agree with many of the criticisms of the article voiced here, but I am disturbed by the lack of courtesy in a handful of responses. It’s probably better to debate like adults here, especially if your argument is that college students ought to be treated like adults.

    Regarding the article, it does seem convincing to me, but only as an argument that the current legal drinking age WILL not change, not that it OUGHT not to change. Correlation with traffic fatalities may be convincing enough to preempt changes in legislation, but this is hardly the point of setting the legal drinking age at 21, is it not? As pointed out above in various ways, setting the drinking age even higher would likely further reduce casualties, as would making driving itself illegal.

    Vika Zafrin’s questions strike me as the most insightful, and I would add to them as follows:

    Was President McCardell’s argument for lowering the drinking age actually structured around traffic deaths, or was he advocating a more holistic stance, incorporating student health, addiction, violence, etc? If so, it is a bit misleading to refute his argument with evidence from the National Highway Transportation Administration.

    Furthermore, was the statement “there is absolutely no research to demonstrate that the age 21 law is counterproductive” similarly restricted to the realm of traffic? This is a bold claim, rendered somewhat suspect by the article’s focus on traffic data.

  25. This is complete bull****. I come from a country where the legal drinking age is 16 and I’ve seen the other side. The side of a lower legal drinking age is one where teenagers go out and drink in public areas such as bars and clubs. One where if someone is seriously intoxicated, there are several adults, bar owners, bartenders and bouncers who will take notice and make sure that person is either not served anymore alcohol or can call an ambulance. This, of course, as opposed to 200 underage teenagers drinking in the basement of a frat house where the chances of anyone actually taking responsibility for another teenager is much less likely. Over the years, anytime there’s been news about someone being taken advantage of, or someone dying due to alcohol poisoning, its almost ALWAYS been in the basement of some stupid house party. Open your eyes, looks to other countries. Let people drink before they obtain their drivers license so at least they know their limit before they get behind the wheel of a vehicle so they at least have some sense of security. I’m not saying 16 should be the drinking age. I definitely think this is too low, but 18 should be the limit. 18 is the age at which a person should be able to take whatever actions they like and be responsible for the consequences. Let teenagers, especially college students over the age of 18, drink in public areas where cops, or anyone in authority, at least have some idea over who’s drinking and where people are drinking.

  26. I actually did a project on this in high school as part of a senior internship and presented it on national radio. Fellow classmates and I had a discussion with the host, who was also a lawyer, about it and there was a divide. He thought it should stay the way it is, legally drinking at 21, while we thought it should be lowered. They reason that so many of those college presidents and scholars had second thoughts it because of what has come out on the subject. It’s true that accidents went down but a lot of that has to do with car safety and alcohol education, not the drinking age. Also teaching teens proper alcohol use, like they do in other countries, allows the parents to set good examples for their kids in how to drink responsibly. There is also this great idea out there that would basically create a license for drinking. Just like a learners permit, you would have to take classes on alcohol use and pass tests in order to get the license but then you could drink under the age of 21. While many would say this could lead to kids buying drinks for others who do not have the license or are not 18, yes but this is occurring anyway and any kind of control of the situation would be a step forward. It is also good to keep in mind that the reason the drinking age was changed to 21 across the country even though it is a state run issue is not because they thought is was a good idea but because the federal government threatened any state that did not comply with a 10% cut in federal money. Also many states have differing laws about how minors can drink in the presence of parents at home. In the end the host, who might I add could drink when he was 18, thought that we brought up some really good points that made him question the drinking age. It shouldn’t be a hard and fast rule but something that kids could learn not fear or challenge.

  27. From , we learn that:”Dr. DeJong is the author of over 400 professional publications in the fields of alcohol and tobacco control, criminal justice, health communications, health promotion, and social psychology.” I find it incredible that such a well funded researcher proposes such a simplistic solution which does not touch on the the topics of the role of family, drunk pedestrians, public transit, or laws related to drunk driving (independent of age). Personally, I would fell much more comfortable if my kids could work out the details of social drinking before they become dependent on driving.

  28. Deal with it? Oh yeah they really crossed the line now! If 18 year olds are fighting for your country, paying taxes, and all the other things ADULTS do, telling them the drinking age is 21 and to deal with it is the worst mistake you can make. That same 18 year old that you claim is too young to drink could be the person who is smart enough to figure out a cure for cancer or they could even be the same person on jury at your trial that votes “guilty”. So the next time you say deal with it, remember that a 21+ drinking age is biased, hypocritical, and is a form of prohibition. Wake up America.

  29. It’s baffling how America is so much more “free” than the rest of the world yet our alcohol and pot laws are irrationally restrictive…we tried prohibition before, and the only good thing that came from that was the show Boardwalk Empire

  30. I would like to point out that if the legal drinking age were reduced to 18 this would encourage students to drink at local bars rather than parties where consumption of alcohol is completely unregulated. Most of these drinking related hospital visits occur when students binge drink at off campus house parties, not local watering holes.

  31. This article is bologna, I’ve been to Europe many times and discovered that lower drinking ages deter binge drinking. The US has some of the highest motor vehicle accident rates in the world, despite the high drinking age. Some countries don’t even have a drinking age and manage to have much safer roads, this is because children are taught at an early age the pros and cons of alcohol consumption. Instead of cracking down on something teens would do anyway, we should teach them how to consume alcohol safely and responsibly. Not to mention, the US may even be a step closer to a free country. Even communist North Korea has a drinking age of 18 (not that I endorse them).

    A fellow 18 year old that drinks responsibly.

  32. I would have to disagree 21 does not work. The # of alcohol related deaths has increased. Their are many countries that have the drinking age at 18 or 19 and it is not a problem. So a 18 year old can join the military and risk their lives but not have a beer? That is wrong. Parents should get the opportunity to show responsible drinking habits to their children. The only reason drunk driving incidents has decreased is the penalties have gotten stricter and it’s more enforced. By making kids wait till 21 the luckily hood of binge drinking is a lot higher. I’ve been to other countries were the legal is 18 and they drink responsibly. So no 21 does not work. Prohibition never worked in the past and is not working now. Europe has had younger drinking ages for years and it’s worked.

  33. If you are in the military you should be able to drink and no one should have any other say in that. Liberals love their studies until the studies prove them wrong such as in gun control and abortion. Anyone who believes in freedom should not stand in the way of at least the military being able to drink at 18. If you do believe you have the right to regulate them then maybe it’s time to regulate your speech.

  34. In the UK and Australia the legal age is 18. This means you can go to bars and clubs. If you are around any city centre on a Friday or Saturday night you will agree that 21 is the right age. At 18 they just cannot handle it. It’s not just sipping on a few beers. They down shots and then 30 minutes later the only people to take care of them are in a similar state. It’s girls and boys.

  35. how about lowering the drinking age while placing a higher tax on alcohol, this would not only help fund the highway system, but it would also keep most younger teens which are still going through puberty to not buy it because it would be too expensive to buy without a job.

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