The United States is one of the few countries where people have to be 21 years of age or older to drink alcohol. In most European nations, the drinking age is 18. There are pros and cons to legalizing drinking at the age of 18. In the United States, there are two components to agreeing to a lower drinking age. They are comprised of individual state rights as well as those who feel that those who are legally adults have the right to choose what they want to drink.
The pros for drinking at 18 include the fact that a person in the United States is legally an adult at this age. They can be tried as an adult in a court of law. They are eligible for jury duty and can be drafted into the armed forces. They can own their own home, sign legal documents and are responsible for their own debt (and alcohol test results).
State rights also come into play when it comes to the pros of drinking at 18. There are many states that depend upon the tourist trade, namely those who are in for Spring Break, which is a rite of passage for most college-aged people. States such as Florida, California, and Hawaii have always lured young people for Spring Break and were against the national law that restricted drinking to age 21. Bars that catered to younger people on these excursions were hit by the new law.
Many people feel that the age of consent for drinking in the United States is something for each state to decide and should not be legislated by the federal government. They also point out that countries where the drinking age is 18 have fewer problems with teenage drinking than the United States.
The cons of drinking at 18 are that most young people, although legally considered adults, are either in college or living at home. They may not be responsible or mature enough to realize the impact of alcohol in their lives, especially when they get behind the wheel of a car after they have had a few drinks. One of the major issues that pushed for the national drinking age to be raised to 21 was the number of teenagers involved in fatal drunk driving collisions. Since the age has been changed to 21, there have been less teenage drunk driving fatalities. However, it is important to note that new laws that are stricter on drunk driving have also coincided with these figures and that most young people today are aware, through the use of educational materials and public service messages, of the dangers of drinking.
The United States has always been more restrictive with regards to drinking than other countries, going back to the days of prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1934, at which time drinking any alcoholic beverage was illegal. Although the drinking age is 21 in the United States, most young people of college age will usually find a way to get alcoholic beverages, especially on college campuses where underage and binge drinking are pretty much the norms.