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You Can Go to War, But Can’t Drink Alcohol

Life Editor

Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11


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What should the legal drinking age be?

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Blood is dripping down their faces as they try to crawl through the sand. Shards of shrapnel grind against their skin as they try to claw over the dead bodies of their comrades, past blown-apart bodies and mutilated corpses. They're surrounded; they're losing too much blood. They know it's all over even before the enemy solider steps in front of them.

At 18 years old, there are American citizens overseas old enough to die for their country. At 18 years old, Americans are considered legal adults who can buy pornography and act in pornography. At 18 years old, Americans have the power to vote for a presidential candidate that can alter the course of history. At 18 years old, Americans can serve on juries where they hold the power of life or death in their hands.

One thing American citizens cannot do when they're 18 years old, however, is drink legally.

Let's be honest: there aren't many people nowadays that can say they had their first taste of alcohol at the legal age of 21. All a person has to do is take a stroll on Main Street on a Friday night to see the hordes of teenagers that are not quite old enough, yet still drinking boxed wine out of water bottles or hiding 12 packs in their book bags.

Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 and the legal age for purchasing and publicly possessing alcoholic beverages changed to 21. Before this, states possessed the power to choose their own drinking age.

This doesn't stop people under the age of 21 from drinking, despite what your parents, guardians, or teachers tried to convince you in high school.

So why does the government even try?

One of the major reasons for the drinking age is the rate of drunk driving accidents that occur in the U.S.

"Moving the [minimum legal drinking age] to 21 has simply shifted the risk of fatal accidents from teens to young adults. No matter what the MLDA is, anyone can suffer the adverse effects of alcohol if they do not drink responsibly," according to

Drinking and driving is the most common defense for why the drinking age is 21. So it's perfectly acceptable to send a young man to war where he can kill others, but if he has the privilege to drink, you're scared that there's a chance he could drive and kill others?

Don't misconstrue the point of this opinion column; it's never an option to drink and drive. Have a designated driver, call a cab, or even walk if you're too drunk to drive.

But why are we given the opportunity to die for our country, yet we don't have the pleasure of heading over to a local bar to grab a beer with friends?

"Many activities have ages of initiation," according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving ( "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 people's maturing brains, and keeps young people safer overall."

So MADD, you believe that 18 year olds have brains that are mature enough to go war, to enter marriage, to fulfill legal obligations like voting and jury duty, but not mature enough to drink?

Think back to your first conversation about alcohol. It probably went something like this:

"Don't ever drink alcohol until you're 21," said the adults.

"Why?" you asked.

"Because I said so," they responded.

Maybe it's the fact that you preach abstinence rather than education about drinking.

If you tell a teenager that binge drinking is going to result in puking all over your friend's car or a hangover that feels like a boulder is crushing your skull, maybe they'll listen more than if you just tell them not to do something.

It's the allure of doing the forbidden – drinking is something that gets you in serious trouble with your folks or the police if you are caught. And most high school kids want to be dangerous and badass. In high school, teenagers trekked one mile into the woods or braved walking on sand dunes just so they could drink a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade. They would ask that "cool kid" who was old enough to drink legally, but chose to drink with high school kids.

Alcohol flows more freely on college campuses. It surrounds students, and at UB all you have to do is walk around the University Heights and you'll more than likely find an open party. Just like the Prohibition forced people to drink in secret, so has the drinking age shift forced college students to drink at places like fraternity houses.

Do you really believe that having college students under 21 drinking in the smelly, dark basement of a fraternity house is safer than at a bar? Drink jungle juice and then get back to me.

Another thing UB students have is the perk of being close to a different country with a lower drinking age, so if they want to follow the law all they have to do is hop the border.

What is it between those 20-something miles that change a person so drastically that they go from too immature to handle their alcohol to being just mature enough?

It's the hypocrisy of the law. There is only a 20-minute drive that separates a 19-year-old from being able to legally drink in a bar from a 19-year-old getting arrested for underage drinking.

Nothing mentally changes in people within less than an hour. They don't suddenly increase maturity levels once they step on Canadian soil.

"Legal Age 21 has not worked. To be sure, drunk driving fatalities are lower now than they were in 1982. But they are lower in all age groups. And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States," said Morris E. Chafetz, MD, Founder of the National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, on

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Mon Mar 17 2014 12:07
I joined the Navy at 17. Got stationed in Spain. Got to go out to bars and drink even before i was 18.
Thu Jun 20 2013 20:30
NNDAA did not actually change the drinking age to 21 in every state. The states still, in theory, can determine age. The problem is that the federal government will withhold highway funding if the age is set lower than 21. And the rules were really supposed to regulate the purchase age. In many states, it is perfectly legal for minors to consume alcohol in their homes with parental permission.
me myself and i
Wed May 8 2013 11:07
the age should be 19 that way you r at least out of high school.
Mon Apr 29 2013 15:01
If you wanna drink under the age of 21 move out of the Damn Country!
Mon Apr 29 2013 14:59
The legal age needs to stay at 21! one of the reasons it is 21 is because your body isnt fully developed you can also develop liver disease at an earlier age and the youth of american start drinking now as young as age 10! do the research before you voice your opinion on underage drinking its a major problem if you're 18 you can wait 3 years to legally drink alcohol
Wed Apr 17 2013 14:38
18 is old enough!
Tue Mar 26 2013 16:43
I enlisted in the marines at 17 after graduating early from high school. I was 17 for only 3 months when i went to boot camp. So i had served damn near four years before i turned 21. I understand the concerns of young people drinking but they will drink regardless of being 21 just like i did. Making under 21 adults drink behind closed doors does not solve any of the problems the government was trying to. The only issue here is drinking and driving and there consequences, which every 18 year old already knows. You can vote, enlist in the armed forces, go to prison, buy a home, serve on a jury, get married and have kids. Maturity and age do correlate somewhat, but it is pretty hipocritical as 18 year olds can have all of these rights that are more important and can affect themselves and our country as a whole lot more than a young adult does by drinking. Education of alcholol and its abuse is key. Ignorance to what our young people are doing regardless of the laws will never help the problem.
By the way im now 24 and served in the marines for 7 years, got married at 21, served on a jury at 20, I have 2 college degrees, got arrested for possesion of alcohol by a minor at 19, bought a 100,000 dollar house at 19 and have lived on my own since i was 16. I know that this doesnt mean all under 21 persons are responsible, nor does it mean over 21 that you are either, but if your legally responsible for everything else in this country at 18, then atleast keep and open mind next time you are ranting about the drinking age.
Wed Feb 27 2013 06:54
These comments are funny. Bunch of crusty old men.
Sat Feb 16 2013 15:02
God all of the dumbasses in this comments section...
"The argument you make applies only to that 1% of 18 to 21 year old kids who CHOOSE the military.
There is no military draft. The drinking age applies to 100% of 18 to 21 year olds. Your argument therefore, carries little weight."
The military argument applies to ALL 18-20 year olds, not just those who chose to enlist. The point this author makes is that we as a society entrust 18-20 year olds with the choice to enlist in the military but don't entrust them with the choice to have a beer. Military service is not a requirement for anyone over 21 to drink alcohol, so to argue that 'most 18-20 year olds don't enlist' is irrelevant.
And regardless of what your opinion is in regards to the maturity level of most soldiers or how regulated military service is, you cannot even begin to argue that it requires a lesser level of maturity to serve your country than it does to drink a beer! What are you risking with the personal choice to drink a beer, your liver? Maybe, ever so slightly, and only if you over do it (and ONE beer is not overdoing it). Being in the military can be a risk to your life. And what about the commitment military service takes? But yeah, I'm sure you think that your 'commitment' to gulping down that can of Miller is WAY more of a responsibility, right?
"Most are quite happy to know that you are drinking while squirreled away in dorm rooms, frat houses, and the like, where you can do the least damage." Now I'm fully convinced that you're just talking out of your ass. Do the least damage? You seriously think that a shady, underground fraternity party where anything goes has less potential for damage than a public bar where you can get thrown out for overdoing it or causing trouble and where the police are on call at all times? Bullshit. You don't care about 18-20 year olds' safety at all, you just don't want them in your bar. Sounds like a personal problem to me. News for you: if you don't like the crowd at a bar, then find a new bar.
"Bars are overrated anyway, you'll soon enough learn. Most grow pretty weary of them after a few years. You're not missing all that much." Yeah, I doubt most 18-20 year olds take kindly to being arrested for alcohol because you personally think that bars are overrated.
Tue Dec 18 2012 20:38
Are all of the military members who are deployed actually go to the front lines? Is the MOS 35G or 35F the same as 11B or 11C?

Not all of them face the perils you meticulously describe. Being a patriot doesn't mean one has to be a mindless nationalistic propagandistic. If men enter the Infantry, should other factors be limited as well? You really have no idea the fools which protect us, do you? If *you* had practical experience, you wouldn't be as inclined to defend them.

Tue Dec 18 2012 20:35
It makes no sense to offer an analogy in regards to drinking and fighting. If one were to delve deeper into this "battleground" mentality, do *all* 18 year olds enlist in the Infantry? Are they the ones fighting the front lines or are simply behind in FOBs safely and secured though they are deep in a foreign territory? Are 35F or 35G the same as 11B or 11C?

Take "Sociology of War." There is no patriotism in a volunteer-only army, only mindless propaganda. If you objectively saw the people "defending" you in the front lines, you would be frightened. The only thing keeping them at bay is discipline necessary to keep them in check. Have practical experience when speaking about things that may simply be presumed and assumed.

Wed Oct 17 2012 02:27
Actually, federal law (10 U.S.C., 505), allows 17 year olds to enlist in the US military, with parental consent. So I'm guessing you would support the notion of little 17 year old Johnny going to a bar and getting plastered, as long as he has a note from Mommy?
Tue Mar 20 2012 17:00
The argument you make applies only to that 1% of 18 to 21 year old kids who CHOOSE the military.
There is no military draft.

The drinking age applies to 100% of 18 to 21 year olds.

Your argument therefore, carries little weight. It's a point that harkens back to the days when there was a military draft and kids were forced into war and to die for their country, yet were not old enough to vote, since the voting age was 21.

Now there was something to get excited about.

Not the right of of kids to get plastered legally, at a time (18 to 21) when their judgment is often poor, they are immature, their bodies and brains are ill-equipped to handle the effects (indeed their brains are still developing), and they fall prey at the drop of a hat to peer pressure to do asinine things that affect everyone. Sorry, but those are the facts.

Immature people do immature things, especially when drunk. Nothing wrong with giving kids a few years to grow up little, hopefully, and be more responsible about such choices in life.

And last, more lifelong alcoholics are born on college campuses than everywhere else. To introduce legal drinking at a later age, when jobs and other responsibilities act as a governor in the lives of those who have a clue, isn't a bad thing.

Meanwhile, most are quite happy to know that you are drinking while squirreled away in dorm rooms, frat houses, and the like, where you can do the least damage. Bars are overrated anyway, you'll soon enough learn. Most grow pretty weary of them after a few years. You're not missing all that much.

Thu Feb 23 2012 10:10
That last paragraph reads "The fact remains..." Umm, but what you write is OPINION not FACT. And certainly not one everyone shares.

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