September 28, 2012

National Drink Beer Day

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." - Ben Franklin

It's National Drink Beer Day!

I thought for National Drink Beer Day I would celebrate by revisiting the paper I wrote when I was in high school about changing the drinking age from 21 to 18. Let me apologize now for the outdated-ness... a lot has changed regarding "the internet" in a over a decade ...

Tossing a Grenade vs. Tossing Back a Shot of Tequila

"A major controversial issue in the last seventeen years has been whether or not changing the minimum drinking age was in fact a smart move. Though the advocates for the change can provide rather interesting "facts" as to how and why changing the drinking age to twenty-one was indeed the smartest move ever made, it is the nay-sayers that I am in agreement with. I believe that the drinking age should be changed back to eighteen.

On July 7th, 1984, Jim Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, enforced the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. He told states that if they did not raise their minimum drinking age from eighteen to twenty-one they would lose all their highway funding. Every state changed the drinking age to twenty-one at that time.

Hall says that, “Raising the drinking age has apparently increased responsibility among young people” (Hall). More than 17,000 lives have been saved since the alcohol laws have been established, he says. There has been a 63% improvement in alcohol related youth fatalities in cars since the drinking age has been changed, as well. Hall is quick in taking the credit for these much-improved statistics. And whereas I don’t disagree with these improved statistics whatsoever, I know that Hall never once takes into consideration that the improvements might be from education concerning drunk driving, designated driver programs, increased seat belt and air bag usage, safer automobiles, lower speed limits, and free taxi services from drinking establishments.

Throughout the years several people have questioned why Hall chose the random age of twenty-one. Hall has stated that the age of twenty-one was chosen because drinking before hand can develop into alcohol dependency or abuse later on in life, it can result in engaging in current and adult drug use, can result in alcohol related problems, and finally can harm the developing brain. I took the liberty of looking up this last one. Come to find out, Dr. George Bartzokis, associate chief of staff for mental health at the VA's Central Arkansas Veterans Health Care System, has been studying the developing brain for over ten years. He, along with his other scientists, have discovered that brain development does not stop until nearly age fifty. So this means that no matter what age you started drinking at, regardless if it’s before twenty-one, you’d be destroying the developing brain.

Dr. Ruth Engs of Indiana University has been studying underage drinking for the past twenty years. In her experience people under the age of twenty-one view drinking as a “forbidden fruit” and a “badge of rebellion against authority”. Prohibiting the sale of liquor to young adults increases an atmosphere where binge drinking and alcohol abuse become a problem. Banning drinking makes it a badge of adulthood. Dr. Engs suggests that we adapt to other countries views on drinking. The Italians, Greeks, and Chinese have few alcohol related problems. To them alcohol is never seen as a poison or magical potion, there is no social pressure to drink, irresponsible behavior is never tolerated, and young people are taught how to handle their alcohol in a responsible manner from home. We here in the U.S. should allow drinking in controlled environments such as restaurants, taverns, pubs, official school and university functions. Responsible drinking could be taught through role modeling and educational training. Jim Hall disagrees, saying there is no evidence to indicate kids will learn to drink responsibly simply because they are able to consume alcohol legally at a younger age. He says that countries with lower drinking ages suffer alcohol-related problems just like we do. M. Kogli, a columnist from Europe, has studied up on this, reporting that per capita: consumption of alcohol in countries like France, Spain, and Portugal is greater then in the U.S.—the rate of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, however, is much lower then the U.S.

And what makes twenty-one the “magical” age that makes one intelligent and mature enough to consume alcohol? Hall’s response was that responsible consumption comes with maturity, and maturity largely comes as certain protective mechanisms, such as marriage and first jobs, begin to take hold. Funny thing is, today’s teens face much more responsibility and are treated more like adults then their parents, who could in fact drink at eighteen, were. This really makes twenty-one seem out of date, when most teens really are getting their first jobs at sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen.

And what was so wrong with the drinking age being eighteen? At eighteen one can drive cars, fly planes, vote, marry, pay taxes, take out loans, risk their lives in the armed forces, sign contracts, gamble, buy and smoke cigarettes, and buy porn. Hall’s response was “…ages of initiation vary—one may vote at eighteen, drink at twenty-one, rent a car at twenty-five, and run for president at thirty-five. These ages may seem arbitrary, but they take into account the requirements, risks, and benefits of each” (Hall). This is quite interesting, because the things you can do at eighteen are more detrimental to ones health and well being then drinking is. Pornography is not only “habit forming, in many cases progressive. It can lead to more and more hard-core material, including perversions of homosexuality, bestiality, necrophilia (sexual interest in corpses) and sadism (a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others). Porn also will increase your chances of committing a sexual crime, including incest, rape, indecent exposure, sodomy, etc. And finally, porn will increase your propensity to lie” (Minister Meyer). Meanwhile, gambling results in selfishness and greediness. “Rather than depend upon hard work, gamblers depend instead upon luck and chance. Gambling destroys families. Gambling is a major cause of family neglect. Many of the social costs associated with gambling come from its mindset. As people get caught up in a gambling frenzy, they begin to neglect their families. Money spent on lottery tickets or at horse tracks is frequently not risk capital but is income that should be spent on family needs” (Encarta ’98). Those who quit gambling experience psychological withdrawal effects similar to those of drug addicts. Recovery often takes two years or more. And what about smoking? The smoking habit and addiction to nicotine usually begins at an early age. In the United States over 70 percent of adults who smoke began smoking before the age of eighteen. Smoking increases the risk of cancer of the larynx, oral cavity, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas. Other research has shown that mothers who smoke more frequently give birth to premature or underweight babies, probably because of a decrease in blood flow to the placenta. Asthma, impaired blood circulation, bronchitis, and pneumonia are also common conditions of smokers.

And yet, it’s illegal to drink at eighteen.

I will not lie, and say I have never had a drink. Because, I have. And all the times I have, it’s been in a controlled environment where adults have not been far away. I have had friends in the past whose parents have let them become completely inebriated in the home setting. If you’re a parent and you know for a fact that you’re child was going to be drinking, but it was going to be at someone’s house, whose parents even called you to let you know that they had taken your child’s keys away, and were making them spend the night, wouldn’t you feel a little better? Your child could be out in some unknown area getting completely hammered with people you’ve never met, and it could result in some sort of a dangerous situation.

I agree with the traditional argument for resting the drinking age to eighteen. If eighteen year olds can vote and die for their countries, then their throats should be able to feel the burn of Jack Daniels. If you can toss a grenade, you should certainly be able to toss back a shot of tequila.

Buckley, Sandra. "The Aftermath of 1984." November 7, 2001.

Cosmiverse Staff Writer. “Brain Growth Does Not Stop in Adolescence.” Science News. May, 2001. December 1, 2001.

Dr. Engs, Ruth C. "Why the Drinking Age Should Be Lowered." Drinking on Campus. March 20, 1998. November 7, 2001.

Hall, Jim. "Answering the Critics of age 21." Talking Points/Arguments. November 8, 2001.

Kogli, M.P. "Lowering the Drinking Age." Crossfire. February, 1996. November 7,

Levine, Don. "Booze Barriers." News and Views. November 9, 2000. http:///
November 8, 2001.

Minister Meyer, Joyce. "Porn Effects Every Viewer Negatively." Why Porn
Is Bad. June, 1999.
December 1, 2001.

“Negative Effects.” Gambling. Microsoft Encarta ‘98. 1998"

(Photo credit: Remick Photography)

Happy National Drink Beer Day!