In America, all individuals under twenty-one are prohibited from purchasing or consuming alcohol. While some states have laws allowing underage consumption at home with parental consent or for religious reasons, the law remains. Twenty-one is the highest drinking age that exists in the world, with the lowest being sixteen in countries such as Italy. The discussion over the seemingly high drinking age is one of the most widely debated topics in American society today.
While there are undeniable facts on each side of the issue, many people feel strongly about it. To give insight, we have four respondents with different experiences. While all respondents are young adults, two have lived in just one country their whole life and two have lived in both America and Europe. Although the drinking age in all countries mainly affects young people, they are often left out of the conversation.
Adela Cejnarova (20), born in Prague, Czech Republic, attends Boston University
In the Czech Republic, kids usually start drinking when they are around 15 years old. Even though there are many problems that come out of it, I feel like it is better then the system in the US for one main reason: Many of the kids go to college with little to no experience with alcohol. When their parents are not there to control them they go crazy. They're wasted every weekend and they don't know how to handle themselves. In the Czech Republic, you start drinking earlier, but not as often because you are living with your parents. Therefore, you are forced to control yourself and do not come home drunk. This teaches you responsibility. Alcohol is also used differently in the Czech Republic. Here, we go out to spend time with one another and socialize whereas in US, when young people drink they go to parties and get wasted.
Pavel Trkal (25), born in Chocen, Czech Republic, works in Vysoke Myto, Czech Republic
When I was younger (15–18), I drank and did not see it as a problem because everyone was doing it. For anyone above the age of 15, it was easy to get alcohol. Now that I am older, I have to say, it was a mistake to drink like that. Yes, we had fun, but now I see it as just a waste of my time. In the Czech Republic you can drink at 18. For young Czech people, even 18 seems late to them so when they hear that the drinking age in America is 21 they think it is nonsense. But now when I look back through my 25-year-old eyes, 21 seems like the perfect age for people to start drinking. Your body and mind are mature enough for alcohol. As everyone knows, alcohol changes your behavior and an 18-year-old kid (or younger) cannot handle that.
Gabriella Ciemny (19), born in Haddonfield, New Jersey, Ciemny, spent two years living in Zurich, Switzerland, now attends Boston University
At my school in Zurich, my peers would go out to bars on some weekends. For the most part, there wasn’t any craze to take a bunch of shots and get drunk. Consuming alcohol was not seen as a rebellious thing because it was legal and my friends had been drinking wine with their families since they were much younger. When I came back to America, there was a lot more binge drinking and people didn’t know how to handle themselves because they were new to the activity. It was really apparent at the beginning of college when I would see ambulances lined up in front of dorms to take the kids who drank too much to the hospital. I never saw that in Zurich. In college, it can be dangerous when most students are underage because people are hesitant to get help for someone who has drunk too much because they can get in serious trouble with the police and school for having alcohol. At the same time, teens in Zurich had easy access to reliable public transportation so when they drink they do not worry about driving home drunk. Americans do not usually have public transportation to rely on because most underage drinking takes place in peoples homes.
Erin O’ Donnell (19), born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, attends Boston University
At 18 you are considered an adult and should have the right to make all of your own decisions. With the drinking age being 21, it leads to a lot of rebellion and mischief amongst teens. Many want to drink and get drunk simply because it is something that is not allowed. This can prove to be very dangerous. For example, because it is illegal, teens are less likely to call a parent or trusted adult for a ride home if they had been drinking because they do not want to get in trouble.