The Drinking Age: How Young Is Too Young?

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16-year-old Julia Gonzalez consumed 16 shots of whiskey in one hour, then died from acute alcohol poisoning just a few hours later (T, Buddy). This is a common tale nowadays, approximately 5,000 teens a year die alcohol related deaths (NIH Fact Sheets - Underage Drinking) . Proponents for lowering the drinking age claim the drinking age of 21 forces young people to drink in dangerous environments and often excessively. They believe that lowering the drinking age will teach youth how to drink responsibly. Supporters of the current drinking age maintain that lowering the legal drinking age would result in far more alcohol related deaths. They state that early onset drinking leads to higher risk of addiction later in life. In addition, these supporters also report countries with lower drinking ages have serious problems with binge drinking among youth. Despite claims the drinking age should be lowered to 18, the current drinking age of 21 better controls underage drinking and saves lives. Some argue that underage drinking is already taking place, and the current drinking age makes alcohol a “forbidden fruit”, effectively making it more desirable (Tamburello). There is a common misconception that lowering the drinking age would make teens drink less, yet Europe serves as an example of the contrary. Most European countries have a drinking age of 18, they report a much higher percentage of 15-16 year olds consuming alcohol in the past 30 days. Furthermore, in the majority of European countries, a higher rate of “binge drinking”, or consuming five or more drinks in a row, is reported (U.S. Department of Justice). In addition, when 29 states lowered the drinking age in the 1970’s, more teens began drinking. This caused tra... ... middle of paper ... ...s, 2008. At Issue. Rpt. from "Clean and Sober." Timesunion.com 15 July 2006. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. T, Buddy. "Teen's Death Exposes Binge Drinking Dangers." About.com Alcoholism. N.p., 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2014. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "The Minimum Legal Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered." Teens at Risk. Ed. Christine Watkins. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Underage Drinking: Why Do Adolescents Drink, What are the Risks, and How Can Underage Drinking Be Prevented?" 2006. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Comparison of Drinking Rates and Problems: European Countries and the United States. By Joel Grube, Ph.D. Calverton: Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 2001. Print.
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