Sounds like folk wisdom: the drinking age should be 18. After all, why would you be able to vote or serve in your country's military but not legally buy a drink?
But there's a very compelling argument for keeping the drinking age at 21: it saves lives. That might be hard to believe given how many people flout the law and still drink, but it's been consistently proven in research.
I have a job and a house. I can vote and join the army. Why can't I drink?
Saving lives through alcohol has serious public health benefits. OnBetween 2006 and 2010, an average of 88,000 Americans died from alcohol-related causes each yearCenters for Disease Control and Prevention🇧🇷 This estimate does not take into account theIncrease in alcohol-related deathsin recent years oralcohol-related offenseseMillions of emergency room visitseach year that do not result in fatalities.
It is important to note that a minimum consumption age of 21 does not excludeAllAlcohol consumption among adolescents and 20-year-olds. But that is frighteninganydrink and this has public health benefits.
The drinking age saves lives
Essentially, drinking age should prevent people from drinking until they are responsible adults. And research shows it works—up to a point.
"The evidence is overwhelming [that] increasing age reduces use,"thisRichard Bonnie, Professor of Health and Law at the University of Virginia. "While use among the younger population remains significant and increases with age, it is still lower than when the age was lowered to 18."
ONEReview of the 2014 surveydoes not publishJournal of Alcohol and Drug Studiesaffirmed that although many young people violate the drinking age, evidence shows that drinking has made it depressive and saved lives.
The review found that drinking age saves at least hundreds of young lives annually by reducing alcohol-related road deaths among underage drivers alone. The review cited a study under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 21: it found that the number of fatally injured drivers with a positive blood alcohol concentration increased by 57% at age 16 to 20 years decreased to 20, compared to a reduction of 39% for the 21 to 24 year olds and 9% for the over 25 year olds. Other studies had similar positive results.
It is likely that the number of lives saved is higher, possibly in the thousands each year, when accounting for alcohol-related deaths other than drunk driving, such as: B. Liver cirrhosis, other accidents and violent behavior.
The report also pointed to New Zealand, which lowered its drinking age from 20 to 18 in 1999. The country saw a significant increase in alcohol consumption among 18-19 year olds, the largest increase among 16-17 year olds and an increase in alcohol-related accident rates among 15-19 year olds.
This is how the drinking age works
Critics of the alcohol era often argue that it forces young people to drink secretly, which can lead to binge drinking as people hide the drink in order to secretly consume it all at once. However, the 2014 research report found no evidence to support this, instead concluding that the national drinking age law restricted access to alcohol and consumption.
"The basic idea behind these laws is to reduce young people's access to these substances," wrote William DeJong, a professor at Boston University School of Health and a co-author of the research paper, in an email. "The evidence is clear that the later a young person starts their first drink, the less likely they are to experience adverse alcohol-related consequences as an adult."
The law does this in two ways. Apparently that makes it harder to buy alcohol before the age of 21. But it also divides social groups in ways that make alcohol less accessible: If the drinking age is 18, someone who is a freshman or sophomore in high school is much more likely to have access to an 18-year-old in high school. Average. But when the drinking age is 21, a freshman or sophomore in high school doesn't have as easy access to a 21-year-old who's probably working or in college.
The second effect – dividing social groups – also explains why a drinking age above 21 may not be very effective. Because 21-year-olds are likely to have access to 25-year-olds through work and study, they can still drink alcohol without problems even if the drinking age is raised to, say, 25. The drinking age to 25 - the economic impact, the cost of enforcement and the degradation of personal liberties - may not be worth the few lives saved.
These principles also apply to other substances. until 2015Messagefrom the Institute of Medicine, to which Bonnie from the University of Virginia contributed, found that raising the smoking age to 21 could prevent about 223,000 premature deaths in Americans born between 2000 and 2019. Why? Older friends and family "are where young people buy tobacco," Bonnie said. "If you raise [the smoking age] to 21, we think that will have a significant impact on these social media disconnects over time."
As such, laws may not be perfect and are sometimes flouted. But the overall evidence is clear: A drinking age of 21 reduces consumption and saves lives.
Other guidelines can help reduce alcohol consumption
However, drinking age should only be part of a broader set of measures that help reduce alcohol abuse and deaths.
[High] rates correlate with less alcohol consumption and a lower incidence of problems such as deaths from cirrhosis. And I see little reason to doubt the obvious explanation: higher pricesweildrink less. As a general rule of thumb, every 1% increase in the price of alcohol reduces consumption by 0.5%. Extrapolating from some of the most conclusive studies, I estimate an even larger impact on the death rate from alcohol-related diseases: 1-3% in months. More broadly, a 10 percent price increase would reduce the mortality rate from 9 percent to 25 percent. For the US in 2010 this means 2,000-6,000 averted deaths/year.
This was not the first positive statement in favor of an alcohol tax hike, but it was one of the most compelling. Not only did Roodman find that high-quality research supports a higher alcohol tax, but that the higher the tax, the more pronounced the effects.
For the US, a 10% increase in alcohol prices could save up to 6,000 lives each year. To put this in context, you pay about50 cents morebecause a six-pack of Bud Light could save thousands of lives. And that's a conservative estimate because it only counts deaths from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis - the number of lives saved would be higher if you included deaths from alcohol-related violence and car accidents.
In addition to the tax increase aPost 2014of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center suggested that state stores (like those in Ohio and Virginia) have maintained higher prices, restricted access for youth, and reduced overall use. It is aStudy 2013da RAND of Dakota do Sul24/7 sobriety program, which briefly arrests people whose alcohol use has repeatedly gotten them into trouble with the law (eg, DUI) when they fail a twice-daily alcohol blood test resulted in a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests and a reduction of arrests by 9% for county-level violence on the program.
Like drinking age, these guidelines do notremoveproblematic drink. But along with the drinking age, they can help — potentially saving tens of thousands of lives in the process.
See: Alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana
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