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How young is too young for someone to start drinking alcohol?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on February 25, 2005

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Photo of Alan Weil

“Seventeen is too young to start drinking regularly. Many other countries have a drinking age of 18, and it seems to work for them.”

Photo of Brian Heath

“Anything under 21 is too young if you ask me. Twenty-one is the law for a reason, right?”

Photo of Mark Sears

“Realistically, 16. I guess that seems pretty young to me, but a lot of kids start sooner.”

Photo of Sara Huslig

“If they are below high school age, they should probably stay away from it. If they are high school aged, they should be wary of it, and if they are college aged, they should be swimming in it.”

Comments

joeyblackchip 9 years, 1 month ago

It's too bad we can send our "men and women" to be blown up in Tikrit and Sadir City, but these "children" are too young to have a beer before being shipped out.

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mastap88 9 years, 1 month ago

Hey, Bowman, read the ninth post down by kns. It is the LAW doesn't mean that it is RIGHT. Some time ago the age was 18...I think that's where it should be. A lot of young adults become independent at that age, separating from their parents and trying to earn a wage on their own...That's when they should be able to make those kind of decisions for themselves. The law is not some concrete all abiding power--in the United States, laws are meant to be altered to serve the people.

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TheBowman 9 years, 1 month ago

I hate to sound like a someone's authoritarian parent, but it's like this: it is unlawful for any person under 21 years of age to consume or purchase alcohol, and it is unlawful for any person to purchase alcohol for any person that is under 21 years of age.

It is THE LAW.

That should more that self-evident....

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brainfodder 9 years, 1 month ago

Two aspects make drinking at 18 a concern for me:

1) In European countries, most 18 year olds don't drive on a daily basis. In the US, they do. We would be increasing the number of drunk drivers, as the 18 year olds who are currently not drinking (or doing so in their homes with friends and not driving) would add to the number of bar-goers.

2) There are regions of the brain that are not developed fully at teen ages (http://web.sfn.org/content/Publications/BrainBriefings/brain_on_alcohol.html) that would be hampered by alcohol use, much less abuse. The more people who avoid drinking at a young age, the better off our society is as a whole.

Sure, I drank when I was 18. I did a lot of dumb things, then. The ability to understand long term consequence as an adult has helped me learn to drink in moderation, rather than in drunken binges. It wasn't just experience that taught me this: it was better brain development.

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extreme_makeover 9 years, 1 month ago

what's with them charging three hundred fifty dollars at the tool booths today????????????

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mrcairo 9 years, 1 month ago

I've seen 40+ year olds who drink and get loud and obnoxious. I've seen 18 year olds who drink and get loud and obnoxious. I've seen 20 somethings who drink and get loud and obnoxious.

You are referring to people who drink and get loud and obnoxious and puke and relieve themselves in my driveway right?

Are you referring to health issues? Hard Stuff or Beer or Fine Wine. Big difference. A glass of Red Wine with dinner daily is very beneficial. I'd say at age 14 up no ill health effects would come from that. If a 14 year old were downing a fifth of Jim Bean every day then I would have issues with that.

What exactly are you asking?

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Merkin 9 years, 1 month ago

In addition to my previous comment....If you have the responsability to make the decision to Kill a man I think you can possess the ability to properly decide wether to drink alcohol or not.

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Merkin 9 years, 1 month ago

I won't get into what the appropriate age should be but what I can say with absolute confidence is....If you are in the military and are risking life and limb you have EARNED the right to drink alcohol. Honestly how many of you can seriously reject an 18 year old that just returned from Iraq a beer. That soldier has been shot at, shot up, Blown up, amputated, and lived in a perpetual state of fear from the day he/she put their boots on the ground. Regardless of your opinion of the war that individual has EARNED the right to drink a damn beer, shot, stoli, beam and coke or whatever.

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missmagoo 9 years, 1 month ago

18 would be a good legal age but kids will use and abuse it even in to their late adulthood. your argument that kids will take it way out of context and cause problems if the drinking age is lower, well yeah, but kids also take driving out of control, and i'm sure just as many adults abuse alcohol as kids. last time i checked, it was a room full of grown adults at AA.

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Liberty 9 years, 1 month ago

I think religious moral constraints should once again regulate an individual's alcohol consumption instead of a law. A law should only be enacted and used as a hard stop in the event the person insists on out of control behavior and debauchery. Self-control is the key with an attitude of being accountable to God for your actions. (Would you feel good about standing in front of a righteous God drunk?) Religious moral constraints in society work as proven through since the beginings of this country and before...

When certain evil elements decided that God was bad and that they needed to get God out of everything in society, that is when society fell in the USA and good school results and self control in all areas ended in America. (When you turn away from God, the punishment is built in to your actions). The answer is to repent (turn back to God), not make a new law for the latest problem. Since these people have no self-control, they will not obey another law either.

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wichita_reader 9 years, 1 month ago

I remember being a very young lad, five or six, and sneaking around at family gatherings, sipping my relatives' beers and swiping bourbon balls from the candy table. The bourbon balls weren't bad, but it didn't take me long to discover that beer tasted disgusting. However, I must admit I eventually developed a taste for the barley and hops sodas.

My family has always been very open about drinking. My parents had no qualms about letting me and my friends have a couple of beers on the weekend after a high school football game, but our keys were confiscated prior.

When I was a teenager and young adult and somebody told me I was not allowed to do something, depending on exactly what it was, I went out and did it as soon as I could--to try the experience. I think it would be much better for most children to learn about alcohol use and abuse from their families, rather than mom and dad flat out banning alcohol use and allowing them to discover it from their peers during adolescence (a much less controlled environment).

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Hong_Kong_Phooey 9 years, 1 month ago

I'm not sure "what age is a good age". I think that it depends on the person. Some people could handle it at a younger age, some will never be able to handle it. I do think that we (society) tend to make a bigger deal of it than is necessary. It's kind of like breasts that way. Women always say, "What's the big deal? They are just breasts." Then they go and treat them like they're the most sacred thing on earth. Of course we (men) are going to be interested in them when you (women) do that! They are the proverbial "forbidden fruit". The same thing goes with alcohol. We are prohibited from drinking for so long that this...aura is built up around the whole process...

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firecracker 9 years, 1 month ago

Speaking of voting(mentioned above...), place lowering the drinking age on a local/national ballot and see how many 18 year olds now magically register AND vote.

My girlfriend is from Europe and has drank with her parents, under their supervision since she was 10 or 11, i.e. wine with dinner. Maturity obviously plays a role here as well, but I can honestly say she drinks nowhere NEAR as much as myself, the good ol' Kansas boy.

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kns 9 years, 1 month ago

Brian (pictured above).........

Just because 21 is the law, so what? Slavery was a law once, too. So was women not being allowed to vote. Then there was this thing called prohibition. And let's not forget all of them Jim Crow laws they had in the southern States for a whole lot of years!!

Laws are not set in stone, Brian! They can be changed! It happens all of the time! Didn't Governor Sebelius officially repeal that seriously unfair used car tax law just recently??

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mr_daniels 9 years, 1 month ago

Booze will stunt your growth!

Sobriety ROCKS!

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consumer1 9 years, 1 month ago

Just poiting out, Have you ever noticed the question asked seems to always be one that most people interviewed can just give a two sentence blurb for an answer. Never really touching on the deeper implications or delving into a diatribe about the topic? I wonder what the poor reporter would do, If someone actually said, "Hmm, I am glad you asked that question, do you have a couple of hours"?

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consumer1 9 years, 1 month ago

We often compare the diringking age in theis country with those of other "Europeon" countries, saying they start drinking at a younger age and they are okay. Or I am old enogh to fight and die for my country and I can't drink a beer. Both of these have good and bad points. But, I believe we as a country are missing an important custom that most other developed countries (who have an ongoing history of more than a couple hundred years) have been practiciing for a very very long time and continue to do so today. We always say I am old enough to do this or that, but then as a culture we argue about whether the masses could handle the same behavior as responsibly. The long awaited point I am trying to make is really quite obvious. Because we are a country made of many cultures we are a mish mash of diversity, while this is good, it leaves our youth with a confused ideal of when old is old enough. We have no clear right of passage for youth into adulthood. For example, at age 13 a young man does not have to pack his buckskin and go into the wild to kill a lion, boar, or bear. This of course is a drastic example, other ethnicities have certain rituals that clearly transition youth into adulthood. It does not come easy and it must be worked for just like living in the woods for 2-3 weeks until you "Become a man". We in this country are spoiled, we believe when we get a driver's liscence we are "old enogh". or when we move away from home into a dorm room we are old enough. We clearly do not earn our right of passage into adulthood therefore leaving our youth in a constant state of ambiguity about when is old enough, old enough. Comments????

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larryville 9 years, 1 month ago

And you something else?? I left out the most obvious thing a person can legally do at 18!!!.........VOTE!!!!!

Duh!

Oops! My bad!

If you really think about it, I think it's kind of strange that a person is legally allowed to do soooo much once he or she turns 18.........except consume alcohol!

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larryville 9 years, 1 month ago

italianprincess.....back on Oct. 5th there was an LJ World question about whether or not the State drinking age should be pushed back to 18. So today's question is very similiar, indeed! "Legally" I think a good age would be 18. I mean 18 seems to be the age that a person can leagally buy cigarettes, go to war, get married, run for public office, etc. etc...so why not 18?? (Although I'm pretty sure you have to be 21 to rent a car and 35 to run for president of the United States!)

If a person younger than 18 has parents that don't mind letting him or her drink in a supervised/controlled environment, well, that's fine too, I guess. But legally-speaking, 18 is acceptable in my book.

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italianprincess 9 years, 1 month ago

Okay,

A bit early to posting since I was half asleep then. I only went as far back as Jan of this year. Left out 2004 completely.

Looked through the archives for 2004 and couldn't find the question there either. I know its been asked before though. A question like this one is like asking:

How young is to young for someone to start having sex? Think about here, I think some more important questions can be asked here.

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italianprincess 9 years, 1 month ago

I post an important question to ask in here and you ask the same question about alcohol and drinking age. This same question was asked not to long ago. I can only go back as far as Jan in the archives, but this question has been asked before.

Even though we all have a drink every now and then, you act as though drinking is great and everyone should be doing it. Drinking age limit is 21 and should stay that way. Even some adults can handle drinking at that age and act like children so why should it be lowered.

Now can we get to a more important question like:

What can be done to lower the class ratio of students in classrooms?

The state keeps saying theres no money- then where is it? Someone pocketing it possibly? High paid administrators maybe?

The number of students in all schools here in Lawrence is crazy. Some are a bit smaller then others, but for one teacher to handle 26 kids on her own is insane. They are to busy discliplining them and not teaching them. Now wonder many kids graduate without knowing things.

I'm hoping LWJ asked this question, I would really like to read some of your responses.

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jonas 9 years, 1 month ago

The problem with the arbitrary date at 21 (at 20 yrs and 364 days, well you're not old enough, try tomorrow, we think you'll have enough maturity then) is that when kids hit that date, having been repressed for so long, they go overboard (though, realistically, it probably happens for lots of them as soon as they come to college). I think that having parental supervised drinking to teach kids (gasp) moderation would be quite a good idea. At the parents' discretion, of course. A workable system would not be too hard to come up with.

Right around 16 is probably a good time to start. That's the point they are starting to get jobs, and by extension, older coworkers to buy alcohol for them.

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