If there were ever to be a vote to lower the national drinking age, it would be immediately challenged as a “states rights” issue. Each state is very concerned with the constitutional imperatives that allow the states to impose regulation of alcohol issues and that includes setting the legal age limit for drinking.
The most important issue is the developmental stage of the human animal. Adolescents, generally under the age of 21, are still developing in their physiology, their emotional functions and their judgement. In this era of juvenile development in well developed countries it is worse than ever. It seems to be a badge of pride that we have kept young people in a state of artificial immaturity that they never recover from as parents giggle while they call “the 30’s the new 20’s” and so on.
Combine this extended demand for young adults to function as children with legal consumption of alcohol, and there will be even more immature individuals driving, binge drinking, dying from over consumption or from risky behavior while intoxicated. Worse, they can start with alcohol as the ultimate “gateway” drug and head into hard drugs. The result is that too many young people end up requiring care or management, rather than contributing to society.
As it stands now, the laws against underage drinking gives law enforcement and the courts the only real power that society has to force the out of control young into programs that force them to participate in education and rehabilitation before they become completely out of control and lifelong alcohol addictions. Early treatment holds the most hope for better addiction control later in life.
The only exceptions should be in the military, where the legal age for serving in the military should be the drinking age, too. Under military conditions, there are the detailed and seriously enforced conditions that are set up to identify and to evaluate those who demonstrate severe alcoholism problems at any time. There is no such extensive equivalent in civilian society except when a related crime or issue, such as public intoxication, severe alcohol related illness or accident is involved.
The fact is that children as young as seven years old are getting hold of plenty of alcohol and worse, hard drugs of all types. When they cannot get the traditional mood altering substances, they can go to the local stores and engage in “huffing”, drinking cough syrup and finding alternative mood altering substances.
Does the fact that “everybody is doing it” mean that it should be legal to drink alcohol at a lower age? No!
It means that there is a national disaster of substance abuse and that the under aged minors of the world need to be under permanent age restricted prohibition until they can be restrained no more. At least that way, there are legal conditions where under aged drinkers can be forced by the courts into alcohol rehabilitation, counseling and training programs at the onset of problem drinking during childhood, where early identification and treatment might be more effective.