At 18 years old, American citizens can legally vote in a presidential election and go to war to defend their country.
Despite being considered old enough to shoulder those significant responsibilities, it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to walk into a licensed venue and buy or consume an alcoholic drink.
In 1984, the US passed the Minimum Drinking Age Act bringing uniformity to the legal drinking age across all states.
Prior to the act, the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol ranged between 18 and 21 years from state to state.
Between neighbouring states where the legal drinking age differed, it was common for under 21s to cross a state line and purchase and consume alcohol legally, or worse, drive home intoxicated.
Authorities ended this by raising the legal drinking age to 21 across the country.
The reason the legal age to drink alcohol wasn’t lowered to 18 across the country is because younger people driving home under the influence of alcohol seemingly led to more road accidents.
Authorities reasoned that by raising the drinking age to 21, the number of accidents would be reduced because older people had more driving experience and were supposedly more mature.
A further argument was that aged 18, youngsters are still irresponsible and more likely to over-indulge. By protecting them for a further three years, they will have more time to mature enough to consume alcohol sensibly.
In Europe, the legal drinking age varies between 16 in countries such as Germany, Italy and Austria to 18 in Spain, France and England.
The World Health Organization indicates that teenage drinkers in Europe aged between 15 and 19 are more like to binge drink than teens in the US.
Whether this is a cultural difference based on children being actively encouraged to have a wine or beer with a meal in countries like France, or attributable to the age people are legally allowed to drink is still open for debate. Should the legal drinking age be lowered to 18 in America?