Hi adults.

When was the first time you had a drink? Do you wish you knew more before you took the first sip? I bet a lot of you did it before turning 21. Perhaps you had no idea what you were doing, and it ended with you throwing up.

The drinking age is both relevant and disregarded. In the United States, the drinking age is universally set at 21, and while states have the option to adjust this number, they would end up losing 10 percent of federal funds for highways if they lowered it, thanks a 1984 attempt by Congress to strong-arm the country into a standard drinking age.

While having to be an adult to drink is totally reasonable, it doesn’t make sense that the drinking age is 21 while the legal age of adulthood is 18. However contentious the subject might be, the U.S. needs to catch up on its standards.

In Germany and France, teens can purchase alcohol at the age of 16, although it is pretty regulated, with limits set and chaperones required for teens under 18. Most other countries make 18 the legal drinking age — the age commonly accepted as the first year of adulthood. Is it not somewhat ironic that we cherish our “freedoms” as what sets us apart from European countries, yet this is a very clear example that adults in Europe have significantly more freedom than here?

I find it rather confusing that when I turned 18, I had to register for the draft and possibly to fight in a war, yet I still cannot go out and have a drink in a restaurant. I am a legal adult, and I have all other responsibilities. It’s like the law is trying to shelter teenagers from drinking, but maybe that’s the wrong thing to shelter us from.

It wasn’t always this way. The drinking age has changed flopped between 18 to 21. When the drafting age was lowered from 21 to 18 during World War II and, later, the voting age, U.S. lawmakers in different parts of the country chose to lower the drinking age in some states, one example being Wisconsin. It made sense.

Naturally, young adults under the legal drinking age traveled to the less restrictive states to drink and buy alcohol, and it sometimes ended badly with car accidents. That, along with the argument of “poor school performance,” led to federal arm-bending to raise the drinking age. The lobbying of parent and religious groups helped usher in the change.

People thinking they know best for others; that almost never ends well.

There is the argument that some 18-year-olds are still in high school and might be too immature to drink, or else they might buy alcohol for their underage friends. That is a concern, but it is a far-fetched one, since laws can easily be written to limit or restrict the amount of alcohol one can buy. Lawmakers could perhaps limit people of a certain age to products with lower alcohol content by volume, for example.

Banning a substance outright is not the solution, and it doesn’t work. The key is not legality, rather regulation. People are going to do what they want — the most the government can do is try to channel laws and behaviors in a progressive and logical direction.

And it is absurd to assume drinking doesn’t happen in college among people under 21, because it does. People drink in college. A lot. Whether you live on campus or not, when you enter college you are an adult, and nobody is going to prevent you from going off-campus to some frat house.

Students drink before sporting events, during parties and pretty much whenever. A big part of the appeal and culture of being in a fraternity or sorority is the booze-based party culture. I really don’t see another point for being part of one. A lot of the hardest partying and heaviest drinking seems to happen in the first year, or so I have seen with people living on campus. People have been hospitalized, blacked out, vomited down the stairs and done badly executed skateboard stunts.

It can be dangerous for younger drinkers to not know their tolerance level to alcohol or the effects of it. But lowering the drinking age might lessen the allure of alcohol and make it safer for people coming to college. Even just creating a safer and more regulated culture within college could go far. People could more readily recognize problems like abusive drinking behavior and get help.

When you turn 18, the time when you are sheltered is over, and you should be prepared to be treated like an adult. If the law recognizes me as an adult, I should be entitled to the same rights and punishments as any other adult; it is only fair.

Ben Timm is a freshman at the University of Utah. Contact him at monkebusiness@gmail.com.

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