The Drinking Age: The Ethics Behind Change
Should we lower the drinking age? If so, what are the ethical implications of such change?
Binge drinking and partying—just a part of college, right? Nowadays, when envisioning the college social scene, we see red cups, handles of liquor, and jam-packed frat parties. In an attempt to end self-destructive and harmful habits, universities like Dartmouth have decided to ban hard alcohol on-campus. But, we must ask ourselves, what’s the root of the problem?
According to the US Center for Disease Prevention and Control, binge drinking accounts for nearly 90-percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21. Binge drinking comes with unintentional injuries, risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual assault. What’s to blame for the unhealthy drinking culture?
When my parents discuss their college years, sure, drinking comes into the conversation—but not to the extent that we see today. The excessive shots and frequent “black outs” seem to be a trait of our generation, a commonality among the millennials. Similarly, while studying abroad in Spain, I noticed a distinct difference in how young people handled themselves with alcohol. Although the Spaniards stayed out late partying and dancing in the discotecas, severe intoxication took a backseat to responsible, social drinking.
Some argue that the drinking age causes binge drinking; students must “hide” their behavior, and therefore abuse alcohol. Kids should enter college having tried alcohol and practiced drinking responsibly in their homes. In contrast, the opposing side deems lowering the drinking age as medically irresponsible. Drinking at eighteen only legalizes a higher volume at risk of dangerous situations in clubs, at parties, and on the roads.
What are the ethical implications of lowering the drinking age? Who’s accountable? Although illegal, is underage drinking unethical? In our new Big Q experiment with YikYak posting, I posed a questions surrounding binge drinking and the legal age.
One student responded in favor of lowering the drinking age, writing, “As someone who comes from a country where the drinking age is 18 […] I never encountered binge drinking until now. I grew up having a glass of wine with my parents all the time. I learned.” Another student answered, “It’s just a part of college culture.” Although the YikYak community seemed overwhelmingly in favor a legal age of eighteen, we must consider the ethics behind both sides of the debate.
What are the ethical implications of adulthood? In the United States, when we turn 18, we become legal adults with new and different rights, responsibilities and privileges from those of minors. Does the ability to monitor our own alcohol consumption fall into this category?
Who’s ethically responsible for accidents involving alcohol? Lowering the drinking age puts more people at risk of injury. Is the government morally obligated to keep its citizens out of harm’s way?