The Drinking Epidemic
The Underage Drinking Epidemic Most people believe that underage drinking is controlled by effective laws and education in the United States. However, in reality underage drinking has become an epidemic as laws and an educational system are not as effective as once thought. Through conducting a considerable amount of research from various sources, it can be determined that underage drinking is an alarming issue in the United States. Certain laws are not proving to restrain minors from drinking but are in fact only encouraging this dangerous habit. The lack of education and parental awareness of the dangers of alcohol, is a clear contributor to a significant number of underage drinking issues in the United States.
In order to resolve this epidemic, the laws and ideologies regarding juvenile drinking in the United States must be heavily revised. First, underage drinking leads to unhealthy behaviors and can potentially harm an adolescent and engender lifelong repercussions. Also, the current laws regarding underage drinking are not preventing minors from partaking in such habits. The laws and ideologies must be revised to be more stringent. Lastly, advertisements by brewers are directed at the younger generations which promotes underage drinking and therefore must be changed.
Through evidence regarding such aspects, the laws and ideologies regarding the underage drinking epidemic must be amended. Juvenile drinking leads to unhealthy behaviors and is destructive to both child and adolescent health. According to Kelly Didel, the director of One in 37 Research Inc., a criminal justice consulting firm, when a minor consumes alcohol, he/she immediately endangers him/herself with the side effects of overconfidence, recklessness, lack of awareness, aggression, and loss of physical and mental control (Dedel). However, underage drinking is not only dangerous to the consumers but to others around them as well. Drunk driving epitomizes the risks and consequences of underage alcohol consumption.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Association concluded that “over one-third of [all the]motor-vehicle fatalities [ages 15-20] involved alcohol” (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Additionally, 63% of young drivers who were under the influence of alcohol and involved in fatal crashes were unrestrained (Opposing Viewpoints). Along with drunk driving, recklessness caused by alcohol is also demonstrated through violent crimes. Through the Federal Government’s funding of surveys, they have “estimated that for the population as a whole, 50% of violent crime is alcohol related [where] 45% of rapes, 44% of robberies, and 37% of other assaults are committed by individuals under 21 years of age” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
The contribution that alcohol has towards the number of crimes committed by juveniles demonstrates the control and potential effects it has on underage drinkers. Not only does alcohol provide an immediate threat to minors, but it also has long-lasting consequences that can dim the prospect of a bright future. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which provides national and state-level data on the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs, found that “persons who were aged 21 or older who reported first use of alcohol before age 14 were more than six times as likely to report past year alcohol dependence or abuse than persons who first used alcohol at age 21 or older” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Along with alcohol dependence, studies conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health have also found that potential brain damage occurs specifically as a result of underage drinking (U.
S. Department of Health and Human Services). Such effects could decrease “ability in planning, executive functioning, memory, spatial operations, and attention, all of which play an important role in academic performance and future levels of functioning” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
Through an increase of hazardous behaviors, loss of control, greater risk of alcohol dependence, and potential brain damage, underage drinking is harmful not only to the minors consuming the alcohol, but also to the innocent civilians around them. Although there are laws in order prevent underage drinking from occurring, such laws are constantly neglected or only loosely enforced. According to the Center for Disease Control, a federal agency that works to improve overall public health through health education and awareness, 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by persons who are twelve to twenty years of age (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention). Furthermore, the National Survey for Drug use and Health reported that 14% of youth aged twelve to twenty admitted to binge drinking in the past thirty days (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention). The reality that a large quantity of minors are breaking the drinking laws is clearly shown through a survey conducted by Monitoring The Future (MTF), an ongoing study of the behaviors and values of young adults. MTF revealed that “75.
1% of 12th graders, 63.2% of 10th graders, and 41.0% of 8th graders have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The current underage drinking laws in the United States clearly do not suffice since a substantial number of minors still consume and have access to alcohol.
According to Janet Portman who is an attorney specialized in residential and commercial landlord/tenant law, legal issues related to courts and criminal law in New Hampshire for a minor who has a blood alcohol concentration or BAC of.02 percent, states that a fine of at least three-hundred dollars must be paid for a first-time offender, or a fine of at least six-hundred dollars for a repeat offender (Portman). Such consequences do not discourage minors because money does not impact them in a personal manner as opposed to a night in jail. Moreover, sanctions for drinking violations outside the scope of the law, such as playing on a school sports team, must be more stringent. Some consequences such as “a suspension, expulsion, or other discipline in accordance with the District’s disciplinary policy” (Gilford School District) do not help students to effectively understand their wrongdoing.
In fact, based on the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, which works to provide research-based school violence prevention for educators, suspensions only result in a “loss of instructional time for a subgroup of students who need it most” ( The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment). Spending more time at school allows them to concentrate on school while denying them the opportunity to perform indiscretions such as drinking. The lack of harsh consequences for breaking the underage drinking laws allow an alarming number of minors to partake in the hazardous and illegal pastime of drinking. Certain laws and ideologies for underage drinking must be highly revised in order to have a positive impact on the current situation. While the legal drinking age of twenty-one is older than most countries and contributes to preventing minors from drinking, it forces adolescents to drink heavily in a small amount of time (known as binge drinking) without supervision according to John Blitstein, a chicago-based journalist and editor at Miller-McCune which is an academic research magazine (Blitstein). Binge drinking has consequently resulted in an average of 4,358 teenage deaths per year based on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism which supports and conducts research on the impact of alcohol use on human health and well-being (National Institute On Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
However, with a lower legal drinking age and a different ideology centered around alcohol, “drinking as a concept was overwhelmingly absent from most European cultures”according to Kim Willsher who is an award-winning foreign correspondent based in Paris (Loewentheil). Since European children and teenagers grow up alongside alcohol where they are taught to drink in moderation, the percentage of binge drinking and its effects are lower than in the United States. Therefore, major contributions to the underage drinking include alack of education and positive influences in a teenagers’ household. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals that “compared to teens who believe their father is against them drinking, teens who believe their father is okay with them drinking are two and a half times likelier to get drunk in a typical month” (Opposing Viewpoints). Although many parents believe that allowing their kids to drink inside their household is a safer option due to more supervision, according to Josie Feliz, a Deputy Director of Public Affairs at The Partnership at Drugfree.org, kids that are allowed to drink in their household have a greater chance of drinking more during their teenage years and depending on alcohol later in life (Feliz).
Through the American culture, education, and legal drinking age, underage drinking has become a growing problem in the United States that must be abolished. Advertising is another controversial area that promotes juvenile drinking. According to Nina Riccio, a writer and editor for various health-related online sites including WebMD, brewers spent “$770 million on TV ads and another $15 million on radio commercials” (Riccio) to enthrall the younger generations. Brewers work to appeal to minors since they are easiest to persuade with their naivety and attractionto “cool” looking characters such as Bud Lights’ spotted dog name Spuds. Since 11% of all the alcohol in the United States is consumed by minors, companies advertise to them in order to encourage their drinking habits and show that drinking is an attractive, jubilant pastime with a large social community (Riccio).
Furthermore, based on Jerry Grenard, a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, a “prospective study conducted by the University of Southern California showed that a one standard deviation increase in viewing television programs containing alcohol commercials in seventh grade was associated with an excess risk of beer use (44%), wine/liquor use (34%), and 3-drink episodes (26%) in eighth grade” (American Academy of Family Physicians). Such evidence concludes that brewers are working to appeal to the younger audiences. However, their accomplishment of doing so is frighteningly successful, as the Budweiser Frogs were more recognizable to children aged nine to eleven than the Power Rangers, Tony the Tiger, or Smokey the Bear (Riccio). The horrific idea that nine and ten year olds know more brands of beer than U.S.
presidents is an alarming example of an ideology that must be changed. Education regarding the persuasion of such ads is a critical piece to the puzzle since adolescents who like alcohol advertisements are more likely to elaborate on the content of the ads, and as a result, are more likely to be persuaded to consume the product. Adolescents who disliked or were skeptical of alcohol ads as taught by their parents, were less likely to be persuaded by the ads and therefore not try drinking (Feliz). Advertising is a powerful tool in persuading the younger generations and hurting their future. Through the reduction of advertisements and enhancement of education regarding their objectives, the underage drinking epidemic can be resolved. A careless attitude in the United States toward underage drinking has resulted in an epidemic with ineffective laws and ideologies.
Drinking at a young age is proven to be harmful to the body through careless actions and brain damage. Furthermore, juvenile drinking leaves kids with a greater risk of alcohol dependence and abuse later in life. Along with such harmful effects, laws regarding the situation do not prevent kids from drinking due to mild consequences. If laws had a stricter penalty or different penalty in educational systems, more adolescents would learn their lesson while keeping up with school. This is especially important since statistically, such kids struggle in school.
The legal drinking age should be changed to bring about more awareness and positive attitudes toward alcohol rather than forcing kids into dark corners to drink in high volume for a short amount of time. In fact, Americans can benefit from Europe’s cultural modelregarding its alcohol educational systems, which teach minors to drink in moderation. Lastly, ads made by brewers are directed mainly at adolescents and children. Such advertisements only encourage drinking by showing the enjoyment and social interaction that accompanies this harmful activity. However, through lack of education and parental responsibility, companies have inspired an alarming number of youth to view drinking as positive pastime and have increased the potential for kids to drink before they have reached the legal drinking age. It is time for adults and children alike to open their eyes and see the reality of underage drinking and how affectes the United States.
Laws and educational ideologies regarding juvenile drinking must be changed in order to abolish the epidemic that has swept through every town and every school in the United States.