24 years ago the legal drinking age in all US states was raised to 21, and has held firm since. Recent legislation and proposed bills have fired the drinking age debate back up as 7 states have some form of proposed legislation aimed at lowering the drinking age. The rationale behind lowing the drinking age is that 18-21 year olds would have safer environments to consume alcohol, as underage alcohol consumption has been driven underground.
Underage consumption has not slowed, and many worry that binge drinking is occurring, and kids may not make proper choices or phone for help if problems arise
due to the legality. A 2005 national survey concluded that 85% of 20 year old Americans had used alcohol in their lifetime. One of the largest benefits that has come since raising the legal age is traffic fatalities of those between the ages 18-20 has been cut by 13%.
Many of the legislation is aimed at allowing military personnel the right to drink legally if they are actively enlisted. The notion of allowing the military personnel to drink legally is heating up debates within the government:
Deputy Transportation Secretary Thomas Barrett is against the idea and stated "I hear this bandied about that if you are old enough to fight for your country, you are old enough to have a beer. I don't think it's the same type of maturity."
Senator David Floyd is pro military personnel being allowed to drink and says its "common sense to recognize as full adults the young men and women who serve in the military."
States Weighing Lowering Drinking Age for Military Personnel
State Representative Terry Musser is sponsoring a bill that will allow troops 19 and older to drink legally. Rep. Mark Kirk says that making 21 the drinking age (implemented in 1986) has saved more than 20,000 lives a year and opposes the law.
Lawmakers have proposed that any military member currently enlisted, would be eligible to drink legally. State Rep. Fletcher Smith is pushing this bill and commented: "It treats our military personnel like the adults and heroes we say they are," Smith said. "If you can take a shot on the battlefield, you ought to be able to take a shot in a bar."
Rep. David Floyd filed a bill which would make it legal for military personnel 18 or older to drink legally. Floyd stated "What do I say to a soldier who comes back from Iraq, having served his country and asks me if he could have a beer? I just could not possibly imagine myself saying, 'No, son. You're too young.'"
States Weighing Lowering Drinking Age for All Citizens
An initiative in the works in South Dakota would allow the drinking age to be lowered to 19 for low-alcohol beer. The current initiative would not allow for any 19 or 20 year olds to partake in drinking hard liquors or beer with strong alcoholic content. Any beer with the alcoholic percentage under 3.2% would be considered a low-alcohol beer.
A planned ballot initiative would have the legal drinking age lowered to everyone 18 and over. The Missouri 18 to Drink organization is gathering signatures and pushing forward to have the initiative on the ballots for the 2010 elections.
A bill was approved to assign a task force to weigh the pros and cons of reducing the drinking age. The task force will make a recommendation to the state Legislature early next year.
State Lawmakers have introduced bills that would lower the drinking age from 21 to 18 for anyone drinking in at a place that carries a liquor license. The bill would not allow for them to buy alcohol at stores.
The argument will still wage on, and Rep. Terry Musser (Wisconsin) may have said it best when talking about legalizing alcoholic consumption by 18-20 year old military personnel, "We're going to need a groundswell. We're going to have to have real people out there say 'enough is enough.' "