Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech

    South Bend is heating up over the controversy surrounding Obama and the local bishop...Read the post

    2009 College Grads: We're the Lucky Ones

    Why there is hope for the graduating Class of 2009, and how they can find work in a recession...Read the post

    Beer in Vending Machines -- What Drinking Age?

    U.S. policies on drinking age seem restrictive when examining the rest of the world...Read the post

    How The Press Can Remain Relevant

    Is it any surprise that Obama has employed a strategy to cordon journalists that is similar to previous administrations?...Read the post

    Be Afraid, Cheney Warns. Be Very Afraid.

    Just when you thought the Bush-era warnings of Armageddon around the corner were over, Cheney strikes again...Read the post

    Obama: You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry...

    Obama threw down his stick, spat on the floor and growled in the face of cameras -- metaphorically... Read the post

    Obama to GOP: 'I Won, I'm The President'

    "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," Obama told GOP leaders...Read the post

    Palin Seeks $11M Book Deal, but Can She Read?

    One can only imagine what Republican rising star Sarah Palin could possibly write about in her memoirs...Read the post

Rss Feed

boston university

international newsculture

Beer in Vending Machines -- What Drinking Age?

Matt Negrin

Posted: Feb 21st 2009 12:03AM

Filed under: Culture, International News, Boston University, Advise & Dissent

Animated disagreement between coworkers is a venerable tradition often denied to Bright Hall's far-flung, break room-less staff. Advise & Dissent is an attempt to fix that. Click here for past debates.

The idea behind lowering the U.S. drinking age to 18 is that it will let police focus on enforcing more serious crimes, while simultaneously removing the stigma of consuming alcohol among the underage. One consequence, however, could be that waves and waves of newly legal drinkers will endanger their lives and others by being careless.

But look around the world.

The United States is one of just a few countries with a drinking age as high as 21 years old. Some of the oldest countries in the world have lower drinking ages -- and higher expectations for youth.

Take Japan, where I've been studying for almost two months now. Next to every other soda and potato chip vending machine on the corner is a similar display for different brands of beer and cigarettes. The country's drinking age is officially 20, but practically it's anyone with 230 yen (about $2.50). There is very little police enforcement, and no laws forbidding public consumption, although it happens rarely. The reason is because there is a high moral and social expectation that most people will be responsible.

In France, the heart of the world's wine community, the legal age is 16, and the same goes for Germany, Indonesia, Denmark, Italy and a variety of African countries.

What about Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand? No drinking age whatsoever, which is actually common in a lot of smaller countries and islands in Europe and Asia.

India is the only country that restricts alcohol in some areas to those who aren't at least 25, the highest drinking age in the world. In Pakistan, Iran and Libya, among others, alcohol is actually illegal.

Just a handful of other countries have the same requirement as the United States, at 21: Armenia, Egypt and some islands near Australia.

So why is the land of the free nearly alone in this category? Its immediate neighbors are less restrictive: Canada's age is 19, while Mexico's is 18, the most common around the world.

But most of these countries didn't set their ages in the teens for the same reason that many advocates want to in the United States, most notably the Amethyst Initiative, a group of college presidents who say lowering the drinking age to 18 will be more effective than simply imposing "abstinence" education. The university chiefs say they have their students' health in their best interests, and that lowering the drinking age will constructively change their Animal House behavior.

Obviously a chief concern is drunken driving. In the United States, more than 13,000 people died in drunk-driving accidents in 2006. That alarming figure has triggered interest groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving to call for greater enforcement, and also oppose the Amethyst plan.

Yet in France, where the drinking age is 16, there were only 1,241 alcohol-related deaths on the streets in 2007. In Canada (19 to drink), about 1,000 die because of drunken driving every year. In Japan, fewer than 500 people a year die in motor accidents involving alcohol, even given the country's strict DUI enforcement.

Would lowering the U.S. drinking age be productive as long as teenagers are responsible? And if so, how do communities and the authorities guarantee better alcohol education? It seems that most college students either know someone or know a friend of someone who died in a drunk-driving crash. Anecdotal evidence is almost more powerful than the figure of 13,000 people each year getting in fatal crashes.

It's unlikely that the drinking age will change anytime soon, despite the United States' high age requirement compared to the rest of the world. There's just too much at risk.

Should the Drinking Age Be Changed?
Yes, It Should Be Lowered1139 (79.7%)
Yes, It Should Be Raised46 (3.2%)
No, It Should Remain at 21244 (17.1%)

Recent Comments »

Page 1/1

Post Your Comments Below

Join The Discussion

New Users

Current Users

Most Popular Stories »

    More Stories »

    Latest News »

      Featured Galleries »

      • Living the Vice Presidential Life
      • Watching the First Debate At UPenn
      • Obama's Number Two
      • Historical Olympic Highlights
      • Pictures from Another World
      View All »
      Comming Soon
      Also on AOL

      Get the latest national news, cultural trends, political analysis and more.

      AOL news