There are some things that are universal throughout every college in the United States. From the Ivy League to state schools, people will find some consistencies in the collegiate lifestyle. All college students know to wear shower shoes and invest in a quality mattress pad. Along with those staples, everyone knows that the sun will rise in the east and students will drink before they are 21.
On March 3, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a new campaign aimed at reducing underage drinking throughout New York. Since the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed in 1984, raising the legal drinking age in the U.S. to 21, the debate over when it is appropriate for kids to have their first legal drink has continued.
The effort put in place by Cuomo will use underage “decoys” in order to find bars and stores that will sell alcohol to minors. Along with these undercover customers, the state will increase the number of sweeps done at clubs and bars, searching for those who may have fake IDs.
While the campaign is looking to prevent minors from making “reckless decisions” that can lead to life-changing consequences, the use of undercover agents and more police involvement may not be the most effective way to curb the youth drinking problem. Bars and liquor stores should be held accountable for selling alcohol to minors, but the issue of kids drinking is not rooted in where they get the alcohol from.
In order to change the drinking habits of underage students, people must change their perspective on drinking.
With the drinking age set at 21, most college students will not have their first legal drink until their junior or senior year. For half of their time at school, students view alcohol as a forbidden fruit. Getting a beer is almost more exciting than actually drinking it. If the drinking age were lowered to 18 and alcohol could be purchased as easily as potato chips, the thrill of having a drink would be substantially decreased. The fear of being caught and facing punishment for drinking would be gone, allowing students to consume alcohol more responsibly, not guzzling down as many shots as they can because they do not know when another opportunity to drink will arise.
The average college student starts their freshman year at the age of 18. With a legal drinking age that more closely coincides with their graduation from high school, students would face a much safer future with alcohol in college.
In the U.S., 21 is seen in the U.S. as the official age of becoming an adult, with the birthday being hailed as a momentous occasion. However, there are plenty of other “adult” things that happen before the pinnacle age. At age 14, kids can apply for their first job. At 16, most American teens can drive a car. Despite being able to enlist in the military at 18, college students cannot legally celebrate with champagne for another three years. Cuomo is looking to prevent kids from “life-changing consequences” they would face after drinking. Students can have those same ramifications for their actions without the influence of alcohol. A car crash or serving in the military can have serious repercussions for minors before they turn 21.
By enforcing this new approach to catch minors drinking underage, Cuomo is prioritizing alcohol as the ultimate danger for students.
This raises the question, what is more dangerous, a college student drinking a Guinness or a high schooler who has yet to take the SAT driving down the highway at 70 mph?