Why We Should Lower the Drinking Age

Prohibition doesn’t work.

A legal limit of 21 does not stop people under 21 from consuming alcohol. Americans under 21 years old continue to use alcohol despite the law.

Legal age 21 fosters unsafe drinking habits.

The 21 year-old drinking age has pushed young adult and adolescent drinking behind closed doors and away from supervision by parents, residence life staff, and other adults authority figures. 90% of the alcohol consumption by individuals between 18-20 years old is done while engaging in binge drinking behavior.

Lowering the drinking age gives guardians more options.

A lower drinking age would allow parents, families, and other guardians to instill safe drinking practices with their children. As it is, people who begin drinking at an early age do not have a safe avenue to learn about sensible drinking choices, and must do so behind closed doors, increasing their risk of unsafe drinking habits.

Legal age 21 is inconsistent with our definition of adulthood.

The drinking age is the only exception to the legal age of adulthood in the US. We consider 18 year-olds to be adult enough to vote, serve in the armed forces, enter into contracts, marry, and even serve on juries. Legal age 21 is inconsistent with our notion of what it means to be an adult in the United States.


What Needs to Change

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act ties states to a minimum drinking age of 21 in order to avoid a 10% reduction in each state’s federal highway appropriation. Federal legislation must be enacted that would not penalize states for deciding appropriate drinking ages amongst themselves. This could come about in a variety of ways:

  • Repeal of The National Minimum Drinking Age Act
  • Exemptions granted to states who embark on pilot programs and conduct thorough research within federal guidelines


How SSDP Chapters can Change the Law

Student government resolutions

A legal drinking age of 21 significantly impacts undergraduate students, a majority of whom fall in the age range of 18-20 years old and still use alcohol. Your student government represents you. Approach them and ask them to pass a resolution calling for the repeal of The National Minimum Drinking Age Act. Better yet, get elected to student government and pass the resolution yourself.

Lobby your school’s President to sign the Amethyst Initiative

Launched in July 2008, the Amethyst Initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States. These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the problem of irresponsible drinking by young people continues despite the minimum legal drinking age of 21, and there is a culture of dangerous binge drinking on many campuses.

The Amethyst Initiative supports informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. Amethyst Initiative presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.

Federal Legislation

Contact your federal representatives and tell them that a drinking age of 21 is hurting their student constituents. Ask them to sponsor, co-sponsor, or support a bill that would either repeal the National Minimum Drinking Age Act or create a waiver deal for states who meet criteria.

To learn more about citizen lobbying, check out our lobbying guidebook (updated version coming soon), or contact your outreach coordinator for more assistance.


Additional Resources

Choose Responsibility – actions, strategies, volunteer opportunities, and more information

Amethyst Initiative – lobby your school president to sign on to the Amethyst Initiative

National Youth Rights Association – more talking points and information