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Why the Drinking Age Should be Reduced to 16

Updated on July 31, 2013

A Broken Society

In countries across the world, underage drinking is an ever present danger to society.

  • Binge drinking is dangerous for our health, but it is even more so for the youth of today; severe liver damage and impaired brain function are common consequences.
  • The social effects of alcohol are also largely negative: ASBO's, assault, loitering, personal injury and public vandalisation.

But in a time of social trouble, perhaps oppression is not the answer: reducing the age limit on purchasing weak alcoholic beverages to 16 in pubs and bars is our likely saviour.

Age does not always mean maturity
Age does not always mean maturity
The dangers of alcohol. (top) A liver from an alcoholic and (bottom) a liver from an abstainer.
The dangers of alcohol. (top) A liver from an alcoholic and (bottom) a liver from an abstainer.

1. Age depicts neither mental nor physical maturity

If the law was only concerned with the health detriments of alcohol, then why not impose a height limit on alcohol? That way, it will actually deter the right people from drinking. Liver and brain size (& subsequent development) are correlated with height, whilst age is not (at least past puberty). A 75 year old is no more equipped to drink than a 25 year old.

That said, a 6'4" 16 year old male is much better equipped to drink alcohol than an 18 year old 5'0" female. Yet the 18 year old is still allowed to drink, and the 16 year old is forbidden.

On top of height and organ size, both metabolism and muscle mass play important roles in determining how well our bodies handle the alcohol we consume.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when deciding if somebody should or should not be allowed to drink alcohol, and the age of a person is not something that necessitates these factors.

The decision of whether or not drinking is acceptable should depend upon the individual. The way forward, then, is to provide the general public with Information on the dangers of alcohol, and exactly what it is that makes you more or less susceptible to them. Once this is achieved, it should be up to the individual to decide whether or not he is allowed.

If a law is deemed unjust to an individual, it will be broken.
If a law is deemed unjust to an individual, it will be broken.

2. Respect

Respect is essential in a society. Respect for the state, and respect for the citizen. If citizens do not feel like they are respected by the Government, then the Government will not be respected by the citizens. This is a two pronged argument.

  1. The 16 & 17 demographic may well feel like that they can make their own choice about alcohol consumption, and feel it is disrespectful to have the choice taken away from them. The law spreads the message of "you are not yet trusted" rather than "it is not safe for you" as point 1. above explains.
  2. This is a stronger point: age restricting laws on alcohol are un-enforceable, the lack of respect generated by this fact breeds a society that neither fears nor likes the police.
    16 & 17 year olds who think they can safely drink alcohol will do so irrespective of the law. The reason 16 is a better age is because it is the age when most teenagers are able to convince family & friends to buy them alcohol, why? Because they are deemed mature enough to drink responsibly. If they can choose who they have sex with and whether or not to smoke, why are they not allowed to choose what they drink? It is not illegal for them to drink bleach, after all.

This effect is reverberated in other aspects of life wherein if the illusion of power in a nation's authority is undermined - if people start believing that the police will never catch them when they commit crime - then all crimes nationwide will increase.

It is important to remember that the attitudes of the people to its government is crucial to so many things, crime rates not excluded.

The growing culture of disrespecting the law is effecting the most vulnerable.
The growing culture of disrespecting the law is effecting the most vulnerable.

3. Crimes

As already has been stated, health is not the reason for the age limit on alcohol. Rather, it is the idea that youths are not mature enough to behave when under the influence. This can be seen in groups of youths banded together drinking on the street or in secretive places, causing public distress and achieving ASBO's.

But how many gangs of 18+ year olds do you see loitering on the street? Not many. You may have seen them, but they were mostly likely returning home from the pub.

18 year olds who want to drink would rather go to the warm and lively environment of the pub instead of the cold streets to drink. 17 year olds do too. Instead however, 16 & 17 year olds are exiled and forced to hit the streets or forest, back alley or other seedy location to drink with their friends. They have been socially excluded from maturity.

The result is that they find the younger age groups to populate parties and gatherings, resulting in a society where severely underaged drinking (10-13 year olds), who are not developed by any standard, are accepted to join in and drink as much as they can. Why not? After all, 16 & 17 year olds are just 'kids' in the eyes of the government. As such they will befriend and party with other (actual) 'kids'.

Underage drinking is a result of a lack of knowledge & culture, these issues need to be tackled with seriously, and not by imposing superficial laws.

The very young in our society see that their older brothers, sisters and friends - who are so much bigger and more mature than them - are not allowed to drink. This gives the impression that no matter how big you get, alcohol will be always be illegal, and it's part of growing up to reject the law and drink anyway.

Perhaps, if the legal age limit was at 15, many of them would reason that "it's only one more year" and start drinking earlier. But even a 15 year old may drink certain amounts of alcohol with no detrimental affects. It depends on the 15 year old.

Everybody should know the effects of alcohol on a young and undeveloped body, so those that actually have those bodies will know not to drink, and their friends and families will know not to let them. After all, when asking most teenagers if they think they've permanently damaged their bodies after a drinking session, they respond with a confident and to me soul destroying 'no'.

With widespread education on the subject, the idea of "when I'm 16, I'll be a lot bigger than I am now, maybe I should wait so I don't get liver failure" will be more prominent amongst all younger ages.

Alcohol related crimes are a result of disrespect to the state and a lack of education about alcohol; teenagers are not naturally malicious or hateful, it is always because of reasons that they act in the way that they do.

It is up to us to vote for reform. It is up to them to help it happen.

The bridge to adulthood.
The bridge to adulthood.

4. Bridging the Gap - Compromise

The transition from child to adult is neither an immediate nor an easy one. Where one day you are legally permitted to do things that you weren't before, it takes a lot of restraint to not go overboard. This is seen in examples of heavy binge drinking in the few teenagers who cared enough about the law to wait until turning 18.

Therefore, like many cultures in many countries already embrace, exposing teenagers to low strength, small quantities of alcohol so that they can learn what it is, and drink responsibly. This approach allows a slow transition into adulthood, that allows for a healthy respect for the consequences of alcohol; rather than a sprint into it.

Allowing teenagers to buy & drink low strength quantities of alcohol like beers and ales, will allow this bridging process to occur and reduce the severity of a binge drinking culture.

What a happy world looks like
What a happy world looks like

Worldwide Success Stories

This idea is not novel. Leading European economies Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg all boast a legal age of 16, allowing their youths to purchase beer and wine but not stronger liqueurs. As a result they see less of a binge drinking culture than the UK, adopting a healthy understanding of it's effects. Despite aggressive marketing tactics by alcohol companies to break through to these countries, "overall consumption of alcohol here has declined during the past years."

It has downsides.
It has downsides.

Western Culture

A new culture of partying and most importantly drinking spreading globally, has it's effects on the youngest among us. Although in a lot of countries, for example Germany, overall teenage drinking is decreasing, the amount that the teenagers who do drink is increasing dramatically.

"some now drink more than ever. German teenagers are number two consumers of alcohol in Europe, topped only by British youth" -

This new culture spread by the media and lack of government control is the leading cause of binge drinking culture. The USA, who boast an age limit on alcohol of 21 also boasts some of the worst binge drinking (& gun crime etc.) in the world, with the worst cases of media induced binge culture too.

This is a similar scenario to what happened in the Czech Republic, where despite knowing the dangerous effects of smoking to the people, the Czech Government calculated that the tax from cigarette sales and the reduced needs for pensions would outweigh the great suffering that would come from promoting smoking across the country.

All in All

It is the responsibility of the Government to do what is best for it's people. Binge drinking culture needs to be eradicated - not catalysed by the media's relentless examples of how to enjoy excessive amounts of alcohol and 'have a good time'.

Reducing the age limit for drinking beers (5%-) in pubs will, like other developed countries have already shown, result in the encouragement of respect for dangerous substances, respect for the law & state, and discourage younger people from drinking.

Social problems cannot be dealt with by oppression, they must be dealt with at the source, a lack of knowledge and respect for the state.

Campaigns to show the dangers of alcohol for young people need to be ever-present, all children should know what even small quantities of alcohol can do to them, preventing permanent brain and liver impairment across the country.

"But teenagers are already allowed to drink with a meal"

This is of course true for the UK, and the issue with that is that many teenagers would rather not have to purchase and wait for a meal every time they wish to go to the pub with their friends.


Evidence regarding America's drinking problems - See Here

Underage Drinking Poll

Have you ever tried an alcoholic beverage underage?

See results

Personal Opinion

What do you think the legal age for drinking minor alcohols (under 15%) should be?

See results


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Just to meantion in Luxembourg the age for purchase of any alcohol is 16

    • LongTimeMother profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      Hmmm. In Australia the legal drinking age is 18. Most kids have their driver's license at 17. The idea is that kids learn to drive before they are old enough to go to the pub ... and hopefully concentrate on driving safely and effectively before their legal drinking begins.

      After getting a driver's license there is a provisional period varying between one and three years, depending on the state. The legal blood alcohol reading for a driver on a P plate is zero - so the young people are very aware of not driving under the influence.

      Considering your points on an individual's size determining their response to alcohol, perhaps we should all be educated about the advantage of filling a glass to a level determined by the size of our hands. If I fill a glass to the height that my closed fingers reach up a glass I'd have a lot less in it than if my husband did the same.

      Interesting thought. :)

    • Reyna Urduja profile image

      Reyna Urduja 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      my oh my...what can I say? Alcohol is but a good drink for me as much as it is a discourse.

      hmmm...Well, when I was sixteen I was more concerned with how I will be able to sustain my future College Education. I've see my parents quarrel on Dad's preference for alcohol every night. And I usually spend nights of crying and fever from fear and nervousness every time they quarrel.

      Yes, alcohol is but a good salve for many aches and pains of human emotions, as well as the release of pent-up stress, yet in my experience as a child, when adults are using it to forget their problems, it could also be the same reason for sixteen year old men and women.

      You are correct, in spite of the law, many can acquire the beverage easily, even in my country. There is something that makes these young people desire to taste the alcohol instead of worrying about their education. Well, I guess that can be attributed to the things that the previous generation do and enjoy than what the present generation wishes to.

      Thank you and hope I've contributed to stimulate more interest in the subject. :)

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 

      7 years ago from Miami, US

      Well, you've made some great points here. Growing up in the states, I wasn't legally allowed to buy alcohol until I was 21. However, I come from an Italian-American family, and I've been sipping wine since I was 12. I also had the luck of being able to live in Italy and Chile before the age of 16, where I was also able to drink and party with friends my own age. Compared to my friends back home in the US, I had a much healthier outlook on alcohol and engaged in a lot less unhealthy drinking before the age of 21. I think my experiences as a teen helped me, and I totally agree with you. Voted up, and other things!

    • KT Banks profile image

      KT Banks 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Oh, I do like the taste of some of it now - lol. Especially wine and Mai Tai's. And Margarita's and Martini's. ;)

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London

      @KT, I think 21 is far too high and I really don't agree with telling fully grown men and women what they can or cannot consume with unenforceable laws, the military allowance of 17-18 year olds really shows the contrast of the laws. You're allowed to undertake intense training and risk your life protecting a country, but you cannot be trusted to control what you place in your mouth :S

      And if only everyone would stop drinking alcohol just because they didn't like the taste ^^

      Thanks for your time & comments :)

    • KT Banks profile image

      KT Banks 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Interesting hub and comments. I've always thought it was wrong that here in the U.S. you have to be 21 to drink, but you can go into the Military at 17 or 18. How does that make any sense?

      I didn't even like alcohol until I was over 30. For some reason, I just didn't care for the taste of it. I still don't like beer.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London

      They certainly do, there is a huge divide between maturity allowances and being shielded from dangers, it's getting ridiculous, I'm glad some people agree!

      Philo, :)

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      This is a very debatable hub on alcohol. I personally would prefer if drinking was reduced to just dinner wine.

      Many countries need to review their policies on age limits for many things.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London


      Thanks Steve :) yes alcohol is a real problem everywhere now :/ Thanks for the encouragement, keep it up yourself! :)


    • Steve Orion profile image

      Steve Orion 

      7 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Very persuasive, though I look around at my high school and do not think ANY of those morons could handle alcohol, or ANY amount. Nonetheless, you make a strong case! Another good Hub, how appropriate your username is! voted up and keep writing!

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London

      @Seek-n-Find, I would be writing for the death penalty, I think we have our next hub duo :)

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London

      @Jenubiouka, Thanks as always Jen :) and I agree, when you're trusted to make significant decisions as choosing a partner or job career, you should be trusted to choose what you consume too.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London

      @Rayna, hey thanks for reading and commenting! Much appreciated.

      "No one can really say how one will behave when intoxicated or what can happen with a group of 6 to 8 sixteen-year old out in one place to drink." Are you proposing that there might be adverse effects of mixing 17 year olds with 18 year olds whilst drinking? Would these effects still not be better than 17 year olds mixing with under 16 year olds?

      "What is the significance of allowing 16 year old to drink alcohol?" that's what I'm trying to say, you can't make a conclusive, general answer, because 16 year olds can vary dramatically in shape and sizes, just like adults, the significance depends on the person irrespective to age and should be just that, a personal decision.

      Thanks for your time, :)

    • Seek-n-Find profile image

      Jenna Ditsch 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Perhaps!? From what side of the issue would you be writing--for or against? I would have to write from the side of against.

    • Philanthropy2012 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from London

      Thanks @Seek-n-Find, and I'm glad you agree! :) I think that prison reform would be a difficult topic to cover, but it may be done. I was going to write a hub about the death penalty and prisoners, are you interested?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I agree with you Philanthropy,

      Kids want to do what they are not supposed to do.

      Plain and simple, you see kids share a small glass of wine with family during dinner and the mystery of alcohol is gone. Give the kids a chance to decide when enough is enough. Alcoholism is a serious disease/condition whatever you want to classify as, it can come on early development or strike at a very late age.

      I have seen some adults do some pretty stupid things while drinking whose is to say the kids didn't learn from that?

      And if not 16 then def. 18. If you can sign up to defend our country I think you should be able to have a beer.

      Maybe the laws should be switched drink at 16, drive at 18.

      All in all I think you hub is great on providing other countries that show no problems with this.

    • Reyna Urduja profile image

      Reyna Urduja 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      Interesting...I see your point.

      One viewpoint that you forgot to include is the effect of alcohol on one's sensorium, judgment and behavior. No one can really say how one will behave when intoxicated or what can happen with a group of 6 to 8 sixteen-year old out in one place to drink.

      Will they go out for more? Will they drink? What is the statistics of 18 year old people up drinking and ending up somewhere in the gutter, safe at home, asleep, pregnant or whatever end-result you can think of?

      What is the significance of allowing 16 year old to drink alcohol? What is the significance of NOT allowing a 16 year old youngster to drink alcohol.

      Point is, everything that we would like to suggest or decide upon to change in a society's rule or law should be given ample time for research and experimentation - doing so will not only save people's lives but make the government and state laws more stable and grounded.

    • Seek-n-Find profile image

      Jenna Ditsch 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      You've made many good points! And I totally agree that social problems need to be dealt with by dealing with the source/the roots. Unfortunately, I don't disagree enough with any content in this Hub to write a Partner Hub on the other side of the issue. :-) We'll know it when we see it. Oh, reading this did make me think of the topic of prison and the social reform of "reforming criminals." People seem to come out of jail even more likely to live a life of crime than before they went in. Not sure if you have an interest in that topic or not, but it would be an interesting one to research and read. Maybe that would end up as a pair?


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