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The Drinking Age

Monday, Oct. 3, 2011

Best student comment on "The Drinking Age" wins a $50 gift certificate.  Comments must be received by midnight Oct. 9. 

David was always a responsible young adult in high school. He worked hard for good grades. He participated in a number of extra curricular activities. He never drank or did drugs. It was his desire to attend a prestigious college that motivated all of this, and he didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize his chance at admittance.

Even still, David’s friends would occasionally ask him why he didn’t party with them, and he always had the same response: It wasn’t a moral abstention, but a legal one. People under the age of 21 aren’t allowed to drink, and he didn’t want to do something he could wait a few years to experience.

However, now that David’s 18-years-old and in college, he finds himself with a different opinion. He no longer has to worry about getting into his university. He finds himself less concerned with the dangers of high school drinking. He gives more consideration to the idea that he can vote and go to war, yet he’s not allowed to consume alcohol.

David doesn’t intend to do anything dangerous when drinking, just have a couple beers when he goes out with his new friends. He’s in a relatively safe environment. He plans to drink responsibly. Is there really a problem?

You may find these resources helpful:

Drinking Age Pro-Con

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


Photo by bunchofpants available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.


Comments Comments

Jeremy Geist said on Oct 3, 2011
Although it's been mentioned that David's "responsible", we don't have enough information to determine whether it's okay for him to drink at 18. Obviously, it's illegal, but that can be disregarded in David's case as this is an argument for the safety of David's actions, not their legality. Various factors we need to determine whether it's safe include: 1. Where is the place where these people will most likely drink? Is it within walking distance to campus or is it likely that David or his friends will need to drive? 2. Since drinking younger leads to binging and alcoholism more often, does David have a family history of alcoholism? 3. How trustworthy are David's friends? Even though David is a responsible person, could he be pushed into actions he wouldn't normally do by his friends? If the answers to these are satisfactory, then I don't see any problem. - Like - 3 people like this.
Andrew H said on Oct 3, 2011
There is absolutely nothing wrong here. Breaking the law isn't unethical per se. Is a person morally wrong when they willfully and knowingly set their cruise control to 66 MPH in a 65 MPH zone? No. But they are acting unethically if they go 66 MPH down a residential side street at nighttime because they are being blatantly careless, thereby increasing the risk towards innocent bystanders. This situation is no different. David can drink in nearly every other Western country. Borders don't determine our ethical responsibilities. If drinking in Canada or Mexico feels okay to David (ie, he has no religious or cultural objection to consuming alcohol), why should drinking in the United States be any different? David should feel perfectly justified drinking as long as he doesn't expose others to the consequences of his decision, namely by drinking and driving. Ethical consequences of a smaller magnitude could result from this decision. As we probably all know, stumbling into your room at 2:30 AM on a Tuesday night and puking all over the place isn't exactly the most pleasant way to wake up your roommate before his OMIS midterm. For some reason, American politicians have successfully convinced the public that the contents of college students' bloodstreams -- otherwise adults of legal age -- is a national concern. Its a bizarre and unfounded notion that needs to be put to rest. - Like - 3 people like this.
John C said on Oct 9, 2011
Contrary to Jeremy's post, the legality of the issue of drinking is what needs to be looked at. What convinced David not to drink in the past, as stated, was: "It wasnt a moral abstention, but a legal one. People under the age of 21 arent allowed to drink, and he didnt want to do something he could wait a few years to experience." In no way does this imply that David originally thought drinking under-age could jeopardize his chances of getting into his University. Now that he is accepted into the University, what influences his thought change? His peers. If David did not have friends that were going out drinking on this particular night, would he still be compelled to grab a beer and drink, possibly without ever even meeting them? If he were never invited out by these friends and thus presented the chance of drinking, would he have changed his opinion of under-age drinking in the first place? As for the reason why the law is stated the way it is, regardless of what other Western nations use as their argument for their drinking age, we have research that proves there can be detrimental effects of consuming alcohol under the age of 21. The age limit for alcohol is based on research which shows that young people react differently to alcohol. Teens get drunk twice as fast as adults, but have more trouble knowing when to stop. Teens naturally overdo it and binge more often than adults. Enforcing the legal drinking age of 21 reduces traffic crashes, protects young peoples maturing brains (1). Reference: 1. Zeigler DW, Wang CC, Yoast RA, Dickinson BD, Mccaffree MA, Robinowitz CB, et al. The Neurocognitive Effects of Alcohol on Adolescents and College Students. Prev Med 2005 Jan;40(1):23-32. - Like - 7 people like this.
The Big Q Media Team said on Oct 18, 2011
Congratulations John C has won the $50 Amazon Gift Card for this week. He gave an excellent explanation surrounding the legality issue of drinking while also contrasting the drinking habits of teenagers versus that of adults. - Like - 2 people like this.
Patrick said on Nov 11, 2011
First off the 21 year old drinking age is unconstitutional. It is probably an argument that will never be won though, but it doesn't change the unconstitutionality. At 18 you are legally an adult in every way, but wait you can't drink. This goes against the equal rights for adults. Lets also not forget that the federal government basically blackmailed the states to raise the drinking age to 21, which I fell is questionable practice. In other words, legally the drinking age should be 18. Practically I understand that part of the objective of the higher drinking age is to keep alcohol out of high schools, so I would might advocate a 19 year old drinking age. That way it is out of the high schools but we aren't baring so many people for no reason. A major cause of underage drinking is partially the fact that it is illegal. Many people in their late teens drink to be rebellious, a lower drinking age would reduce this phenomenon. I also believe that the zero tolerance laws are foolish and also help promote underage drinking. Many people are banned from alcohol so when they get a chance to drink, they go overboard. If people are exposed to alcohol earlier in life, they don't feel the need to go crazy when given the opportunity. So I would see no problem with David drinking, especially if he is going to drink responsibly. - Like - 2 people like this.
Kara said on Jan 28, 2014
No, I do not think it would be a problem for David to drink. I think if citizens of the United States are legally considered adults by the age of 18, they should be given the right to drink. The drinking age in America needs to be reconsidered, and possibly switched around with the laws on driving. Personally I believe that the US should follow the EU?s regulations on drinking, drugs, and driving. - Like
Daekwon said on Jan 30, 2014
Personally I don't think David is wrong to have a beer or two when going out with friends, but I do think David needs to evaluate why he is now choosing to drink. If his main motivation is from peer pressure and being surround by drinking more than ever then I would say don't drink. David should drink because he wants to not because he feels obligated to. Laws in the US concerning are ridiculous, you can start driving at 16 but you can't go to an r-rated movie yet. You can vote and go to war at 18 but you can't consume alcohol, seems a bit backwards. Many students in the US start university and completely over do it mainly because they are no longer under the supervision of their parents and then when they can legally drink at the age of 21 their early twenties are filled with alcohol abuse. If drinking was introduced at a younger age with supervision then more responsibility with alcohol would be developed. - Like
Ashina Sheni said on Jan 30, 2014
If you ask me, I'd say there is nothing particularly wrong with this. We should remember that an age more than 21 years to drink is a convention. everything depends on the person himself. Some people are responsible enough to be allowed to drink earlier while others are not even recommended to drink after they are 21. In this particular case, the student we are talking about perfectly controls himself when drinking. He knows well the possible consequences and sees no potential danger that can harm him or the others. He proved that he was able to withstand the desire to drink when he knew that was not what he was supposed to do. If so, why can't he allow himself to drink at college, which probably will help him to better get on with his new friends? it is worth to remember the words that an old alchemist from the book of the same name said about alcohol: "It is not what comes in that's important but what comes out". As long as a human controls himself and knows what he has to do, drinking will be no harm for him. - Like
Maria K said on Jan 30, 2014
While I do agree with David's point of view I think there are many factors that should be put into consideration. 1. David should know the consequences of breaking the law and what could happen if he is caught with underage drinking. Is he still willing to break the law? 2. The human brain does not finish developing until your early 20s. Perhaps there is a reason the drinking age is 21. Is he willing to jeopardise the development of his brain? 3. What is the reason for starting to drink now. Is it for social reasons? Peer Pressure? 4. How well does he know his new friends? Can he count on them if he does drinks more than he can handle? 5. Are they walking to the bar or driving a car? If it David's first time drinking he should probably go somewhere close to his dorm and not have the risk of drinking and driving. There are many factors to think about before starting to drink. However, in Europe and many other countries the drinking age around 18. In Switzerland people can start drinking wine and beer at the age of 16. This may seem outrageous to those who live in the USA, but it has its advantages. People learn their limits with weaker alcohol. Because they are not deprived of this privilege they do not feel the need to binge drink and are more responsible. While there are many things to consider I think it all boils down to David and the reasons why he thinks it is okay to break the law. - Like
pablo mg said on Feb 4, 2014
In my opinion, I do not see any problem at all for David to drink. Obviously, the drinking age by the law is 21 and David had his reasons for not doing it before. These decisions demonstrate his character and morality. However, now that he wants to try it, it is not that much of a deal since he is responsible and from what they describe seems to be mature enough to know what he is doing. In addition, in the US at the age of 18 people are already considered adults, although it is true that drinking increases the risk of accidents especially at that age. Nonetheless, if the law treats them as adult for their actions there is no reason to not treat them equally in every way. - Like
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Tags: alcohol, drinking age