The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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The drinking age dilemma

Becoming an adult takes transition. It is not something that happens overnight. In our most important aspects of growing up, government restrictions reflect the transition necessary.

Before getting on the road with a car for the first time, a test is given for a permit, which allows for safe, limited driving to get prepared for a road test.

Only then are you fully qualified to be on the road. Before getting a job, everyone has to go through education or some kind of training.

When it comes to drinking alcohol, however, the government seems to think it appropriate to set the arbitrary age limit of 21 as a measure of maturity.

Disregarding even the fact that age is hardly a good indicator of maturity, 21 has proven to be ineffective in limiting binge drinking – so much so that colleges across the country are now calling for a decreased legal drinking age.

There is no point in pretending that binge drinking is only a problem in the United States, but there is also no denying that it is a problem that 21 has not fixed.

A drinking age of 21 promotes drinking on the street instead of at bars or restaurants. This inevitably leads to public drunkenness, which could result in danger to not only the drinkers themselves.

The United States is practically the only Westernized country that has the limit, with countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain checking in at 18. Many other countries, like Italy, go as low as 16, while others have a structured system.

For instance, in Belgium, the age of 16 allows you the permission to drink beer and wine but not until 18 can you drink spirits.

That is a step in the right direction. An overhaul of America’s drinking laws has been some time coming. The only surprising thing is that the American people have not demanded it sooner.

Besides the binge drinking problem on college campuses, being in wartime certainly brings up the age-old paradox: old enough to kill overseas, but not old enough to enjoy a beer upon their return.

Besides lowering the age of drinking to 18, several other steps should be taken to optimize the effectiveness of American drinking laws. America should borrow an idea from Europe: the shandy. A shandy is an alcoholic beverage (typically beer) mixed with lemonade or another soft drink to dilute the alcohol content.

This gives people younger than 18 a way to drink safely while learning about their bodies’ tolerance for alcohol. Instead of jumping into the deep end as soon as they hit 21 (or earlier in most cases), there is a transition period.

Another idea could be to implement a junior license, or permit, for drinking. After turning 18, a student could take a written test, much like the driver’s permit, to obtain a drinking permit.

The test would include questions about calculating blood alcohol content (BAC), the effects of alcohol, and safe drinking techniques. The permit would allow for full, or limited, access to drinks.

Though the government and some schools believe that leaving the drinking age at 21 protects teenagers from the dangers of alcohol, it actually leaves them more on their own than anything else. There is no one to teach them how to drink safely, or transitions to teach them how their body reacts to alcohol.

The number 21 just represents a gap from illegal to legal, for no apparent reason other than a passing birthday.

Besides lowering the drinking age to 18, the government needs to learn how to safely transition teens to adults when it comes to drinking instead of pretending the 21st birthday is any kind of protection.

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