National Minimum Drinking Age Act

Since my white paper is looking at the policy of the 21 year old age requirement to legally drink alcohol in the United States and considering if lowering the age to 18 would be more beneficial for our society, I figured it best to start than the act that brought the drinking age from 18 in most states to 21 in all.

The National Minimum Drink Age Act was passed just over 30 years ago, on July 17, 1984 by Ronald Reagan. While the act doesn’t directly outlaw those under 21 from consuming alcoholic beverages, any state that refused to raise their drinking age to 21 would take a 10% cut in their annual federal highway funding.

The act was pushed heavily by Senator Frank Lautenberg and the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after statistics had suggested the 18-year-old drinking age caused an increase in alcohol-related car accident fatalities among those 18-20 years old.

I find it interesting that 1) The legal drinking age is still at the discretion of the states, yet all 50 states have stuck to the 21 year restriction, and 2) That after a period in the 1970s where the legal drinking age changed multiple times in many states, this law has stood untouched for 30 years. I feel as though the drinking culture in the United States is vastly different than it was 30 years ago and the National Minimum Drinking Age Act may not be the best solution.


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