The minimum drinking age and the concerns of the effects of alcohol started in America during the Prohibition Era. In the article “Teaching With Documents: The Volstead Act and Related Prohibition Documents,” the author states that concerns of the effects of alcohol were preached fanatically in the early 20th century. Temperance organizations such as The American Temperance Society, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Anti-Saloon League were formed for one purpose, to ratify the Constitution and instill a nationwide prohibition.
In the early 1900s, states acted like controlling parents by cutting off what their kids wanted, the manufacture of alcohol. Shortly after, these teetotalers campaigned for a change in the American way of life by presenting Prohibition as the 18th Amendment in the United States Constitution (“Teaching”). After Prohibition passed and became national law, it had great initial success. A liquor consumption drought swept across the nation due to the skyrocketed prices to purchase illegal alcohol.
The United States Brewers’ Association stated that during the Prohibition Era, the thirst for hard liquor dropped by a staggering fifty percent, and alcohol consumption as a whole dropped by thirty percent. These profound statistics however, do not reflect the bad seed the federal government planted. Bootlegging, or the illegal production and distribution of liquor sprouted all across America like crabgrass. As crime rates rose, the federal government found enforcing prohibition was more than they could handle due to the high demand of alcohol, and the diminishing desire for abstinence (“Teaching”).
Although the high price of illegal alcohol prevented Americans from buying it, it did not stop them from making their own. Ruth Ann Dailey states in her article “Lowering Legal Drinking Age To 18,” that following the repeal of the 18th Amendment, the majority of the states loosely mandated a minimum drinking age of twenty-one. Subsequently, the end of a short era of abstinence had little effect on the improvement of American morals. Nearly forty years after the end of Prohibition, over half of the states reduced their minimum drinking age to eighteen.
This resulted in numerous border hoppings, as not all teens could drink legally in their respective states. Unfortunately, this led to an increase in teenage drunk-driving. In 1985, the federal government laid its foot down, setting twenty-one as the nationwide minimum drinking age. Since the end of the Prohibition Era, the minimum drinking age and the effects of alcohol have been taken more seriously with each passing decade. The drinking age should be lowered to eighteen due to its positive health factors.
Even though alcohol is believed to be harmful, it can actually be beneficial to human health if used properly. In his work “The Health Benefits Of Alcohol Should Be Promoted More Vigorously,” David Shiflett cited that a fifteenth century German medicine man, Hieronymous Brunschwig, once said: [Alcohol] eases diseases coming of cold. It comforts the heart. It heals all old and new sores on the head. It causes a good color in a person. It heals baldness and causes the hair well to grow, and kills and causes sweet breath. It heals canker in the mouth, in the teeth, in the lips, and in the tongue.
It causes the heavy tongue to become light and well-speaking. It heals the short breath. It causes good digestion and appetite for to eat, and takes away all belching. It draws the wind out of the body… (Shiflett 30) Although most of these are not true today, evidence suggests that modest drinking can reduce the risk of heart disease. In the British Medical Journal, a link has been found between drinking reasonable amounts of alcohol and lowered risk of heart disease. Moderate drinking is so prevalent in Great Britain that its government sways abstainers to quit abstaining.
Rational drinking finds benefits ranging from reduced cholesterol gallstones to decreased risks of stroke (Shiflett 31). R. Curtis Ellison stated in his work “Moderate Drinking Is Beneficial For Human Health” that The American Medical Association predicts that if every American were to abstain from alcohol, the mortality rate would increase by an extra 81,000 people a year (Ellison 20). Although these extra 81,000 people may not all be young adults, it could be them in their future had they not been exposed to the benefits of moderate drinking early on.
Studies have shown that people, who consume moderate amounts of alcohol daily, live longer than those who do not. In his work “Doctors Should Recommend Alcohol To Their Patients” Stanton Peele showed that in a 1995 Harvard study by Charles Fuchs, 85,700 nurses were examined who drank up to two alcoholic beverages daily. These women lived longer than those who abstain. In a more specific case, Morten Gronbaek and his colleagues conducted a study in 1995 and came to conclusion that wine drinkers outlived abstainers, his subjects being 20,000 Danes (Peele 47).
Numerous studies have been conducted supporting evidence that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol a day can prolong life. The benefits of alcohol have been studied extensively proving that it is not as harmful as people think. Therefore eighteen year olds are losing years off their lives if they cannot legally consume alcohol. If the drinking age was lowered and proper education was given on its effects, there would be a decrease in alcohol-related problems. Nations with a strict temperance policy have been shown to have more alcohol-related problems versus nations where alcohol is a part of daily life.
Although abstaining countries consume fewer amount of alcohol, they do however consume higher percentages of stronger alcohol taking place in binge-drinking environments. Binge drinking environments differ from wine-drinking countries greatly. Wine-drinking countries encourage socialized drinking within the family or at other social gatherings. Countries like this teach their youth that alcohol is not something that can ruin their lives. Instead, it teaches them that drinking can benefit them greatly if it is used like it is supposed to be (Peele 49).
Providing education on the proper use of alcohol can help prevent life-altering decisions for underage drinkers; however, the lack of proper education has led many underage drinkers into heavy binge-drinking. In the article “College Professors Call For A Debate On Lowering The Drinking Age To 18” the author states that college students are consuming excessive amounts of alcohol to get drunk, versus learning how to use alcohol properly. Although having the minimum drinking age set to 21 decreases the number of underage drinkers and reduces deaths caused by alcohol, the minimum age has not lead to nationwide abstinence (“College 1-2”).
President-elect of the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors, Don Osborne, said that teaching “how to drink responsibly—at 18, 21, or even 25—isn’t part of any curriculum. If we knew how to do that, we would take care of a lot of our problems” (“College 2”). The fact of the matter is that binge drinking can have tragic consequences and without the proper education on the use of alcohol, 18 year olds could be at greater risk to harm them once they are of legal age.
With the right education, young adults can find more positives than negatives with the use of alcohol. Lowering the drinking age to 18 to parallel other legal rights is disputed heavily across the United States. Gene Ford pointed out in her article “Why We Should Lower The Drinking Age to 19” that the United States has some of the sternest drinking laws in the world as well as the most alcohol-related issues among younger drinkers. Evidence supports that the most effective way of reducing underage alcohol abuse is introducing alcohol at a younger age.
Countries such as Portugal, New Zealand, Belgium, Canada, Italy, and Spain all teach their youth to drink responsibly despite having no restrictions on alcohol use. Numerous historians are convinced that minimum drinking age laws in America resulted from the repeal of the 18th Amendment. Just before the Prohibition Era ended, minor in possession laws were uncommon. These minors consumption was standardized by informal societal controls (Ford). If eighteen year olds are considered adults in the United States, then they should have the right to drink.