Persuasive Essay on Drinking Age
We live in a country that prides itself on being free, but some people feel they do not have as much freedom as they deserve, like the freedom to drink legally at a younger age. The legal drinking age should be lowered to 18 years old because at the age of 18 you are seen as an adult in the eyes of the law. The target audience of this paper is anyone in the state of Iowa who is 18 or older and has an opinion on this issue one way or the other. This paper will show why the drinking age should be lowered to 18 years old and what is wrong with some of the arguments made for why it should stay where it currently is, which is 21 years old.
The audience for the speech will be a very broad one so I will have to use a variety of styles and arguments to appeal to everyone. The type of argument I will be making is a proposal argument. I am calling for an action, lowering the legal drinking age, and I am focusing on the future. The warrant for my claim is that if you are seen by the law as an adult then you should be able to drink. For the speech I will be using reason and common sense just as much if not more than I will be using individual statistics. This is mainly because the audience is so broad that one style of arguing wont appeal to everyone.
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The legal drinking age in Iowa is currently 21 years old. It was changed from 19 years old to 21 in 1986 when the federal government threatened to take away federal highway money from states that did not have a 21 year old drinking age. Many people thought raising the legal age to 21 was a good idea. However, in every single state where the drinking age was changed to 21, alcohol consumption by people within the 18 to 20 year old age bracket actually increased (Feeny B6). This is a very strong appeal to logos because it is a fact that surprises most people. Many argue that part of the appeal of underage drinking is the fact that you are not supposed to be doing it. This is a point that has been proven time and again with other things such as prohibition. Just because you make something illegal it does not mean that people are just going to stop doing it.
The United States has the highest and most strictly enforced drinking age in the world. Our youth alcohol policy is ineffective and may actually have the reverse effects of what it is designed to do. It is applied so rigidly in most of the country that it precludes any attempt to teach young people how to drink responsibly. Under the current laws many young people learn to drink in unsafe environments. They use alcohol with the intention of getting drunk rather than as an accompaniment to food. Americans in the 18 to 20 year old age range do dangerous binge drinking far more often than the rest of the world who learn to drink in the open (Shefchik).
A speech on a subject like this would not be fair unless you showed both sides of the argument. The number one argument by supporters of the 21 year old limit is that it reduces alcohol related traffic deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated 16,000 lives have been saved as a result of raising the legal drinking age to 21 (Straszheim).
An argument against that statistic by those who don’t believe it is that there may be other reasons for the reductions in traffic fatalities, such as safer roads. Another argument is that young people start drinking long before they turn 21 even with the age limit (Goodale).
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Alcohol belongs in the category of psychoactive substances one can legally buy in almost any country, according to certain criteria. Most often, this criteria is age; in the majority of cases, it is set to 21 years. However, in a number of countries, such as Australia, China, and Russia, it is set to 18 (ICAP). In the United states, calls for lowering the drinking age have sounded for a rather long time; considering that alcohol can lead to unpredictable behavior and other negative social consequences, the drinking age should not be lowered.
One of the first associations that come to mind when talking about alcohol is driving. For citizens of the United States, having a car is seen as a must starting from the age when a teenager is allowed to receive a driving license. According to data provided by the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, in 2010, a high percentage of car accidents connected to drunk driving (15.1% out of 10.228 individuals) was observed among young people aged between 18-20 years (PolicyMic). Respectively, if youths were officially allowed to consume alcohol from 18 years old, this index of car accidents would necessarily be much higher. Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that since establishing the drinking age of 21 in 1975, the number of car fatalities among 18-20 year old drivers in the United States decreased by 13% (SFGate).
The medical irresponsibility of allowing teenagers to drink alcohol on a legal basis is also obvious to those who have at least a basic knowledge in biology. Consuming alcohol on a regular basis can negatively affect the development of an individual’s brain’s frontal lobes, which are responsible for emotional regulation, as well as for planning and organization (ProCon.org). Underage individuals who consume alcohol put themselves at more risk of addiction, decreased ability of decision-making, tend to behave less responsibly, and may become violent, depressed, and even prone to suicide.
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The “trickle-down effect,” well-known to sociologists, is another reason against lowering drinking age that should be taken into consideration. This effect implies individuals who already have a right to legally purchase and consume alcohol tend to buy it for their younger peers (ProCon.org); for example, 21-year-old students buy beer or spirits for themselves and for their friends who can be of the age 18-20. In the case of the drinking age being lowered to 18 years, the age of individuals who in fact have access to alcohol will decrease even more, reaching ages of 15-17 or even less. Considering the specifics of adolescence, granting teenagers with a wider access to alcohol can have negative consequences for their health and wellbeing.
Though in a number of countries worldwide the drinking age is 18 years, in the United States, this index is 21, and it should not be lowered. Lowering the drinking age to 18 years old would lead to an increase of car accidents connected to drunk driving; it would also negatively affect youths’ cognitive development, clouding their ability to make decisions and plans, and would make them more vulnerable to addiction and other negative effects; due to the “trickle-down effect” lowering the drinking age would also mean granting access to alcohol to individuals who are younger than 18 years old. It seems this debate in the U.S. will linger on much longer.
“Minimum Age Limits Worldwide.” ICAP.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.icap.org/table/minimumagelimitsworldwide>.
“Top 3 Reasons Why the Drinking Age Should Not Be Lowered to 18.” PolicyMic. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.policymic.com/articles/14574/top-3-reasons-why-the-drinking-age-should-not-be-lowered-to-18>.
“Keep the Drinking Age at 21.” SFGate. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Keep-the-drinking-age-at-21-3271409.php>.
“Should the Drinking Age Be Lowered from 21 to a Younger Age?” ProCon.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://drinkingage.procon.org/>.
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