Buy cigarettes. Get married to someone you love. Buy a house. Take out a loan. Get the lifelong commitment of a tattoo or piecing. Adopt a child. Serve in the United States military. Cast a vote that effects your future and the future of your children. Those are some of the many things that become available to you after you turn 18 years of age. Those are actions that may have severe consequences or a lasting impact on lives. Now I must ask you all, how is alcohol any different.
History repeats. We should learn our mistakes and make an effort to change it. As a nation, we have tried using legislation to control irresponsible drinking. The attempts to do so were the National Prohibition in the 1920s and the state prohibition during the 1850s. They were repealed because they were unenforceable and the incredible backlash towards them. It did not work then and this prohibition for young people under the age of 21 is not working now. The consumption of alcohol has become the “forbidden fruit” of our youth due to the age restrictions that have been placed.
There is a need for an alternative approach to create a societal awareness of the consequences of drinking alcohol and to eliminate irresponsible drinking. Our current prohibition laws are not working. We have the ability to learn from ancient cultures and experiences of others. Italians. Greeks. The Chinese. The Jewish. These people have few drinking related problems. They share a set of characteristics. Alcohol is neither seen as a poison or a magic potent, there is little or no social pressure to drink, irresponsible behavior is never tolerated, young people learn at home from their parents and from other adults how to handle alcohol in a responsible manner, there is societal consensus on what constitutes responsible drinking. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation indicated, in a 2014 study, that European nations have less youth drinking rates and problems. Our youth drink more frequently, are more likely to binge drink more, and experience more alcohol related problems. According to a study done by Pew Research, over 2 million people died in 2004 of causes that can be attributed to alcohol consumption, including everything from accidents to diseases. The leading causes of alcohol-related death were cirrhosis of the liver, traffic accidents and other unintentional injuries.
The legal drinking age should be lowered to 18 years of age and young adults allowed to drink in controlled environments such as restaurants and official university functions. In these situations responsible drinking could be taught through role modeling and educational programs. Mature and sensible drinking behavior would be expected.