The drinking age may very shortly be lowered to 18-years-old in two states across the U.S. and it is all due to Obamacare, believe it or not. Will these two states be the first in a nationwide swing to a lower drinking age?
Most states had a drinking age of 18 prior to 1984. That was the year that the federal government decided to essentially force all states to raise the drinking age to 21. How? The federal government told state governments that if they didn’t raise the drinking age to 21, the feds would withhold federal money to improve the states’ roads.
In other words, the federal government pseudo-blackmailed the states into raising the drinking age, a tactic that seemed like a dangerous precedent to many.
Now, however, a veteran state representative in Minnesota, Phyllis Kahn, says that “a provision in Obamacare” may provide a loophole for states to do what they want regarding their individual drinking age laws.
One of the new laws that Kahn is attempting to enact in Minnesota wouldn’t allow 18-year-olds to go to a liquor store to purchase beer, wine or hard alcohol. However, it would allow 18-year-olds to drink openly at a restaurant, bar or sporting event. The second law regarding the drinking age that Kahn is attempting to implement, would allow 18-year-olds to drink in a bar or restaurant as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. (Clearly, if the first law passes, then the second one would become obsolete.)
How is this possible? What does Obamacare have to do with lowering the drinking age?
Kahn has stated that when the 2012 Medicaid expansion requirement in the Affordable Care Act was ruled on by the Supreme Court, the judges stated that the federal government couldn’t threaten to withhold funding to compel states to act in a certain way. With that ruling, according to Kahn, the previous leverage the feds used against the state governments regarding the legal drinking age isn’t legal.
Kahn told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she doesn’t think the new law would increase drinking problems with young people, but, rather, decrease them.
“It’s a very good way to deal with the serious problem of binge drinking, particularly on college campuses.”
You might be thinking to yourself that logic doesn’t seem to make sense. However, according to Kahn, European-style laws that allow younger people to drink in bars and restaurants result in lower binge drinking rates. The thought behind the lower drinking age is that young people have an opportunity at a younger age to “learn” how to drink socially, without binge drinking. When a person is held back until they are 21, very often the tendency is to “go crazy” when they finally have the opportunity to drink. It could be likened to everyone being handed the keys to a Ferrari on their 16th birthday with no training on how to drive it; inevitably, there would be safety concerns.
The lead Democrat of the House Commerce Committee in Minnesota, Representative Joe Atkins, has stated that he doesn’t agree with either of the laws that would lower the drinking age to 18; however, he does believe that Kahn is correct in her assertion that the drinking age could be legally changed without violating any federal laws.
Other representatives in the Minnesota legislature have commented that they’re hesitant to allow Minnesota to be the first state to “roll the dice” on a lower drinking age. Some would be agreeable to lowering the drinking age, but only to 19, ensuring that no high school students could drink legally. Still, others state that binge drinking is worse than ever at college campuses, and feel that lowering the legal drinking age would only make it worse.
Will a lower drinking age decrease binge drinking?
[Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images][/caption]
It should be noted that the latter objection may not be entirely correct. Recently, over 130 university chancellors and presidents signed a national letter that stated that the current drinking age laws are doing no good to anyone, and suggest some sort of change.
The second state that is currently looking at reducing the legal drinking age to 18 is California.
What do you think? Would lowering the legal drinking age to 18 in bars and restaurants give kids some “practice” at social drinking before they turn 21 and thereby lessen binge drinking issues? Or do you think lowering the drinking age to 18 would just make things worse? Share your opinion on the legal drinking age in the comments below.
[Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images]