A little sip here and there might actually help

Kristina Deckert

I was trying to kill some time at work this past week. I explored my favorite magazine’s Web site, Time.com. Considering I’m your typical college student, the articles and columns that caught my eye the most were the ones written about alcohol, a popular topic among most college kids. (I know, maybe I should care more about the presidential race or the war in Iraq, but, to be honest, I would much rather read about alcohol.) Each of the articles got me thinking, and I’d like to share some of the points I came across to, I hope, get you thinking too.

Lowering the drinking age to, we’ll say, 19 might actually be a good thing for America. Let’s consider, first, America’s past. We’ll start with the 1800s when people figured out that alcohol was probably not such a good thing. Soon, the 1900s rolled around and, sadly, Prohibition was instated. Eventually, America was allowed to drink again, and in the late 1960s alcohol ages were reduced to 18.

Then, Mothers Against Drunk Driving took the drinking age back up to 21. So, in general, we’ll come to the conclusion that the United States has gone through some alcohol panics. I’d argue that we’re in the midst of another little panic, and it involves our age group.

Adults think all we do is binge drink in high school and college. Yeah, some of us do. A lot of us don’t. But for those of us who do, there might be a reason why. Let’s just consider our society and how “forbidden” alcohol is in high school and the first years of college. This “forbidden fruit” that we’ll call alcohol makes us interested in drinking. I sure was.

On the other hand, as I was growing up, I was allowed to have a few sips of alcohol here and there. Usually, I didn’t take them because I felt awkward that my parents offered them to me, as if that one sip was going to get me so wasted that I was going to fall down the stairs and embarrass myself in front of them. But at least it was accessible to me in a safe environment.

I think sometimes, alcohol is considered so taboo to the youth in America that the second some kids get to college they drink their faces off and sometimes even end up with alcohol poisoning – the alcoholic panic exemplified. So what if America decided to lower the drinking age to 19? This is what would probably happen: First, all of the kids who are between the ages of 19 and 21 would probably flip out and binge drink in their newfound alcoholic freedom. Then it would die down, mostly because they would realize alcohol is expensive. Younger people would have the opportunity to be exposed to alcohol, thus teaching them to drink like responsible adults while putting alcohol in the right place among their priorities earlier in life.

Let’s also consider the countries in Europe that have drinking ages usually at about 18, give or take a year or two. Typically, their model of drinking also involves moderate, supervised drinking with families. Statistically, according to Time.com and the World Health Organization, Italy and Spain report very low rates of alcohol dependence or abuse – less than 1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. The U.S. has a rate of 7.8 percent. I’ll let that cute little fact speak for itself.

So perhaps the best thing for America would be to let its kids drink – just a little – with their parents, privately in their homes. I’m not saying that parents should provide their kids with alcohol to go to a party or to have a party at their house, but I’m pretty sure a sip here and there won’t breed thousands of alcoholic kids.

Perhaps lowering the drinking age and not making alcohol such a “forbidden fruit” among America’s youth will cure our binge drinking panic. Or maybe, just maybe, it will cause all of America’s youth to become binge alcoholics for the rest of their lives. Who knows?

Kristina Deckert is a junior information design major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].