Why Is the Legal Age 21
This answers the legal question of why the drinking age is 21, but what was the underlying logic of the original policy? Did lawmakers simply pick 21 out of a hat because they wanted seniors to learn the nuances of bar culture before graduation? Almost. The concept of a person reaching the age of 21 dates back centuries in English common law; 21 was the age at which a person could, among other things, vote and become a knight. Given that a person was an official adult at the age of 21, it seemed reasonable that he could drink even then. In 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed, stipulating that federal highway money would be withheld by U.S. states that had not set the legal drinking age at 21. By 1988, all states had introduced the minimum age. However, these changes were soon followed by studies showing an increase in road crash deaths due to the decrease in MLDA. In response to these findings, many states have raised the legal drinking age to 19 (and sometimes to 20 or 21).  In 1984, the National Minimum Legal Drinking Act, drafted by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and influenced by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), required all states to set their minimum purchasing age at 21. Any state that chooses not to comply with the law would withhold up to 10 percent of its federal highway funding. Since then, arguments against the age of alcohol consumption have persisted. Some argue that the illegality of alcohol gives it a “taboo appeal” and actually increases rates of underage drinking. Others argue that if you can fight in war, you should be able to drink.
But the legal drinking age has not been set for medical reasons. In the 1960s, Congress and state legislatures came under increasing pressure to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. This was largely due to the Vietnam War, in which many young men who were not allowed to vote (or drink legally) were conscripted into the war and therefore had no way of influencing the people they sent to risk their lives. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote” was a slogan commonly used by proponents of lowering the voting age. The slogan dates back to World War II, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the military age to 18. With the lowering of the voting age to 18, the legal drinking age (MLDA) has also been lowered, as the ability to vote (and for men to be unwittingly conscripted into the military) should also allow for the legal consumption of alcoholic beverages. Many activities have an age of initiation. A person has to wait until the age of 16 to start driving, until the age of 18 to marry without parental consent, until the age of 35 to become president, and so on.
The age limit for alcohol is based on research showing that young people react differently to alcohol. Adolescents get drunk twice as fast as adults,9 but have a harder time knowing when to stop. Teenagers, of course, overdo it and are more often than adults. Raising the legal drinking age of 21 reduces road accidents,4-6 protects the brains of mature youth,12,14 and ensures overall safety. References 4. Fell, J.; Minimum Legal Drinking Age Policy Knowledge Asset, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Substance Abuse Policy Research Program website; March 2009. Read More However, when the legal drinking age dropped nationwide in the `70s, alarm bells began ringing, notes licensed clinical psychologist Suzette Glasner-Edwards, PhD, associate professor at UCLA`s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “Research conducted after this period strongly suggested that an increase in road accidents among young people was associated with this change in the legal drinking age,” she tells Teen Vogue. “As a result, citizen efforts have begun to push states to reinstate 21 as the legal minimum age.” History says no. When U.S. states had a lower legal drinking age, the drinking problem was worse for minors.3 For example, before the legal drinking age of 21 was adopted by all states, underage drunk drivers were involved in more than twice as many fatal traffic accidents as they are today.3 References 3.