A few weeks ago (before everything was shut down due to COVID-19), I had the opportunity to travel for spring break to Montreal, Canada. It was a completely new experience for me, having never been out of the country. Montreal was a beautiful city filled with beautiful nature, old architecture, cobblestone streets lined with poutine shops, and clubs that all the young people flocked to.
Another thing that was very new to me was having the drinking age be 18 years old, instead of what I was accustomed to in the United States, being 21 as the legal age. It was somewhat strange at first to be able to walk into a liquor store or a bar/restaurant and be able to order a drink. However, over time, I felt that it was in a much more relaxed setting, especially as a college student. Young people like me could consume liquor in a safe setting without feeling the pressure to use alternate ways to get it and consume in much more excess.
The law that changed the drinking age back to 18 was passed in the 1980s for all 50 states. By doing so, the government believed that the actions taken would help reduce the risk of deaths caused by young drunk drivers, which has been proven to have worked to some extent. Although, I also do believe that enacting this law just led to young people just finding alternate ways to get alcohol, consuming it in high amounts at parties and frat houses when they are in school.
According to the NIAAA, in 2018, around 7.1 million people between the ages of 12-20 said they had consumed alcohol more than “a sip” within a single month. That number seems to be extremely high and concerning looking at the age group represented. By setting the age so high, it creates this toxic culture around alcohol, kids feeling like they have to start drinking early on in order to prepare themselves for college and as they grow up to “keep up” with everyone else.
To give more insight into what young people think of the idea of lowering the drinking age, I interviewed some people at my university. One girl said:
“Yeah, I agree with the idea that the drinking age should be lowered. I think drinking at 18 normalizes it so people don’t go crazy when they get to college and potentially get into bad situations because of it.”
Another person I interviewed made a great point that stuck with me while writing this article and it was:
“If you can join the military and vote, you should also be able to have a beer.”
When we turn 18, we are given so much more opportunity, like being able to vote for our elected officials, and enlist ourselves to fight for our country. It just seems ridiculous that we have the capability to do all of that, but still not be able to drink legally when the law already elects us to be mature enough to do so many other things. I know that many older people, mostly parents, would be against the idea of giving their kids the ability to drink at an earlier age, but I truly believe that by doing so, it can keep more kids safe and change the view that surrounds binge drinking and partying.
With all that is happening now, who knows what the future will hold in our country, but it would be interesting to see if this ever became a topic of interest for lawmakers. Having the experience I did on spring break was new and eye-opening, and I recommend to anyone looking to go adventure out into the world and gain a sense of independence.