America has a bizarre notion that 18-year-olds can control all aspects of their life except beverage choice. Most of us here at UNO are considered minors when purchasing alcohol, yet are adults when signing a contract or in a court of law. While I respect that we are a dry campus (even for those 21-years-old and older), I do not respect the illogically chosen national drinking age. This law is ineffective, poorly enforced in colleges, encourages unsafe drinking habits in young adults and disrespects young adults (18 to 20-year-olds) by forming a contradictory definition of responsibility.
How did this come to be? This illogic was implemented by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which raised the Minimum Legal Drinking Age to 21 (MLDA 21) for all states. The intended effect of this law is to stop those under 21 from drinking, however it has not done so–a 2016 study by the National Survey of Drug Use and Health concludes that the majority of young adults drink (68.3 percent aged 18 to 20 drink alcohol.)
Not only is the law disregarded by many young adults, but also by many colleges. Colleges have a weak enforcement history of drinking laws on college campuses, where most underage students caught drinking are referred to campus officials or the campus health center, according to a study from Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. This is a mere wrist-slap as compared to the Minor in Possession [of alcohol] (MIP) charge they should receive.
Besides the law’s ineffectiveness and lack of enforcement, it is also linked to unhealthy drinking habits for young adults.
The drinking age of 21 has encouraged underage drinking as a rebellious act and shifted it away from safe and controlled settings. Because of this, the purpose of drinking for young adults has changed from a casual social activity into a wild party binge.
This is the case on college campuses, where binge drinking among young people at colleges has significantly increased since the law was enacted, according to Georgia Nugent, a former college president.
In contrast, many cultures (like how America used to be), adults of all ages drink to relax and enjoy an evening, but in America today young adults are drinking to get drunk, black-out, and party the night away. Introducing generations of Americans into this unhealthy substance abuse habit as their first experience with alcohol is not a good policy to continue.
Furthermore, this law forms a contradictory definition of responsibility for young adults.
On one hand, in accordance with state and national law, 18 to 20-year-olds are allowed to accept responsibilities such as independent living, career building, working hazardous jobs, and taking on enormous student debt. On the other hand, according to the same law-making institutions, young adults are not presumed to be responsible enough to purchase or consume alcohol.
If we cannot trust young adults with alcohol, how can we rationalize trusting them with other important responsibilities?
Clearly, this federal ban on alcohol consumption for young adults has had little positive effect throughout its 34-year history and ought to be repealed.