Should the Legal Drinking Age be Increased to 21?
by Tejvan Pettinger on May 9, 2013 in society
Readers Question: Evaluate the case for raising the legal drinking age to 21. Will it be more effective than other methods for reducing the harmful effects of alcohol?
There are several reasons to be concerned about the over-consumption of alcohol, especially amongst young people. In the UK, abuse of alcohol has contributed to several social, economic and health problems, including:
Alcohol related accidents.
Alcohol addiction major cause of family breakdown.
According to a report, “Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK”. “The personal, social and economic cost of alcohol has been estimated to be up to £55bn per year for England and £7.5bn for Scotland,” Research carried out by Sheffield University for the government shows a 45p minimum would reduce the consumption of alcohol by 4.3%, leading to 2,000 fewer deaths and 66,000 hospital admissions after 10 years. Researchers also claim the number of crimes would drop by 24,000 a year. From an economic perspective, we say that alcohol is a demerit good.
People may underestimate the personal costs of drinking alcohol to excess (especially amongst young people) There are external costs to society, e.g. costs of health care, costs of treating accidents, days lost from work. Therefore the social cost of alcohol is greater than the private cost. These two factors give a justification for government intervention to deal with some issues related to alcohol. Raising the legal drinking age could help reduce these personal and social costs because it is more difficult to purchase.
Arguments against raising the drinking age to 21
At 18, people can vote and are considered adults, so we should allow them to
have a personal decision on whether to consume alcohol. Alcohol in moderation isn’t necessarily harmful. Rather than a blanket ban, the government could focus on tackling binge drinking through making alcohol more expensive and tackling the drinking culture. Drinking alcohol is so embedded in the culture, raising the legal age to 21, will make the majority of young people break the law. It will encourage people to find ways to circumnavigate the law. Black market alcohol supplies, which may be harder to monitor. Arguably, there are better ways to deal with problems of alcohol.