Underage Drinking is Not a Problem (If Not, What Is?)

This is a staff editorial from the Daily Barometer, Oregon State University’s award-winning student newspaper. It argues that underage drinking is not a problem.


Underage drinking is not a problem. The problematic situation is over-consumption. This is a result of our society’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Overconsumption is everywhere in today’s America. Drinking is but one of the areas where we see one of its greatest manifestations.

Other Western democracies have long had a more lenient attitude toward alcohol. Many have set the drinking age at 16 or 18, sometimes even lower or non-existent.

In those countries, parents often serve small amounts of wine or beer to their children during meals. It is legal for a child to drink with his parents almost everywhere in the United States. However, a majority of society often frowns upon it.

A factor mitigating the problems tied to underage drinking is that in those countries drinking is legal well before driving and other major life milestones.

By the time young Europeans are allowed to drive they have been consuming alcohol with or without their parents for several years. This enables them to better judge its adverse effects on judgement and general motor skills.

Alcohol Education

underage drinking is not a problemIn the United States, alcohol education demonizes people who drink. It doesn’t show that drinking can be responsible. Instead, it shows gruesome pictures and horror stories of drinking for “education.” This notion only furthers a rebellious teenager’s plight to rail against the norm. Why stay away from something that looks so exciting?

Because of this, the consumption of alcohol is often a goal in itself. Binge drinking is a direct result of the necessity for underage drinkers to consume alcohol before they go out.

In order to change this trend we need to educate ourselves and our children about the proper consumption of alcohol.

Quality matters, too. Having a couple microbrews in a social setting is appropriate. Drinking a case or downing a bottle of spirits is stupid whether you are 16, 33 or 45 years old.

We as a society need to drop this remnant of prohibition era puritanism. And we need to stop regarding alcohol consumption as evil.

underage drinking is not a problemThe same way parents educate their children about safe sex, they should teach them about proper alcohol consumption.

We need to re-evaluate our standards for what is acceptable for which age group. Why can people give their lives for their country years before they can legally have a drink?

We trust young adults to choose the leaders of our nation. But we don’t allow them to make a choice on what they can drink!


Posted by permission of the editor. Edited slightly.


Peele, S. Addiction Proof Your Child. Potter, 2009.  

Seaman, B. Binge: What Your College Student Won’t Tell You. Hoboken: Wiley, 2010.