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Pro 21 MLDA research debate

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Opening Statement:
When it comes to the controversial topic of the minimum legal drinking age, most of us will readily
agree that the biggest goal to strive for is safe drinking. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the
question of how to achieve that goal. Where some are convinced that lowering the drinking age to 18 will lower
fatalities and make teens “more responsible”, others maintain that having the drinking age at 21 will be more
safe and healthier for the bodies and minds of teens and overall for society. A commonly known organization
that strongly advocates the 21 MLDA is MADD, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They, along with many
other Americans, ourselves included, believe that keeping the present drinking age will promote responsibility
and safety more than lowering it will.
Arguments:
Largest arguments:

Studies conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in 2009 reveal that
alcohol use is associated with a 10% reduction in the size of the hippocampus for teenagers 13-20 yrs
old. If the MLDA was moved down to 18, it would give more people legal access to alcohol, in which
they can greatly damage their brain by drinking excessive amounts.
o The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) believes that drinking under the
age of 21 affects the function of the hippocampus (memory and learning) which is uniquely
sensitive to alcohol at this time. (2009 studies)
o Alcohol is poisonous to the nerve cells of the hippocampus causing them to be damaged or
destroyed. These are brain cells that will never be regenerated and are lost forever, leaving
teens/young adults at a disadvantage for their futures. (2009 studies)

“Trickle-Down” Effect: As five prominent scholars from The University of Michigan put it, “Alcohol
has been widely used by young people in the U.S. for a very long time.” In 2015, the five college
professors (Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D. Patrick M. O’Malley, Ph.D. Richard A. Miech, Ph.D. Jerald G.
Bachman, Ph.D. John E. Schulenberg, Ph.D) conducted a large survey that reported 22% of 10th graders
drank in the last 30 days. According to the Institute for Health Development, 30.8% of 15-16 year olds
in the Philippines, a place with a MLDA of 18, confessed to drinking regularly (2008). Basically, both
the University of Michigan and the Institute for Health Development are saying that lowering the
MLDA will give younger people easier access to alcohol. Ultimately, our goal here is to demonstrate
that the “trickle-down” effect will happen to teenagers in the U.S. if the MLDA is moved down to 18,
giving high schoolers easier access to alcohol, and even potentially middle schoolers.

MLDA 18 does not work: When New Zealand reduced its minimum purchase age for alcohol from 20 to
18 in 1997, there was a 12% increase in the rate of traffic crashes and injuries for 18–19 year-old males,
and 51% for 18–19 year old females. There was also a significant increase in hospital presentations of
intoxicated people under 20 (Evidence comes from The Royal Australasian College of Physicians
(RACP)). In 1971, the legal voting age in the U.S was dropped to 18, and there was buzz starting to
build for a reduction in the minimum legal drinking age, as well. Between 1970 and 1975, nearly half
the states dropped the drinking age to 18, 19, and 20. However, In 1984, Congress passed the National
Minimum Drinking Age Act, which required states to raise their ages for purchase and public possession
to 21 by October 1986 or lose 10% of their federal highway funds, as there was increasing research on
teenage brain development and increasing numbers of drunk-driving accidents. (Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention) The point is that the MLDA of 18 did not help to prevent drunk driving or
traffic accidents involving alcohol, as numbers in these aspects actually increased. Our conclusion, then,
is that keeping the MLDA at 21 will help save more teenage lives.
Smaller Arguments:
 Traffic accidents decrease
 Lowering MLDA will increase likelihood of using drugs
 Bars and clubs aren’t necessarily the safest places to drink
Rebuttal:
 18 is the age of adulthood
o


Allows supervised drinking in safe environments at the age of 18
o While this is true, allowing those who are 18 into safe zones such as bars would allow those of
younger ages more accessibility into those zones with the use of fake IDs. How does this work?
Individuals physically age at different rates, thus a 14 year old could pass for an 18 year old at
bars. While this is hypothetical, this is promoting alcohol use for those under the age of 18 as
well.
Traffic accidents and fatalities are common amongst newly-legal drinkers, regardless of MLDA
o Yes. A study in the 1980s did show that changing the MLDA to 21 did a general decrease in
traffic accidents within the next year, this was probably due to the weariness drivers had when
the 21 law came about and the fear of losing funding for highways. Nevertheless, introducing
alcohol at a young age would mean

Fewer drunk driving accidents in many counties with the MLDA of 18

The MLDA does not correlate with the decrease in traffic accidents since the decrease is shown across
all age groups, not just newly legal drinkings
Lowering the MLDA diminishes the thrill of breaking the law
MLDA is ineffective because the majority of teens continue to consume alcohol
MLDA 21 is not a priority for law enforcement
MLDA 21 is not associated with the lower rates of suicide, homicide, or vandalism
Lowering the MLDA would be good for the economy
o Excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink, a significant increase
from $223.5 billion, or $1.90 per drink, in 2006. Most of these costs were due to reduced
workplace productivity, crime, and the cost of treating people for health problems caused by
excessive drinking. -CDC
o Yes and No. While allowing more people to have the ability to purchase consumer products, like
alcohol, can benefit the economy, there are consequences of doing such. By allowing more
people to drink, you increase the chances of more individuals to drink excessively.
 When individuals drink excessively, their behavior in the work place can be affected to
the point where those individuals could lose their job. This causes reduced workplace
productivity.
 Allowing you





Closing Statement:
The Minimum Legal Drinking Age matters because there are many consequences that range in severity
and are dependent upon the MLDA chosen for it. Ultimately, what is at stake here is the safety of all people. By
keeping the MLDA at 21 we do what’s best for society. Average brain development would be improved,
resulting in teens having greater success in their future due to alcohol being harder to obtain for them. A
primary reason for this is the evidence we presented about how the “trickle down effect” would be made more
common with a lower legal drinking age, further facilitating underage consumption of alcohol. Although some
argue that countries with lower MLDAs have fewer traffic accidents than the U.S, they fail to consider that U.S.
does not have as much public transport as other countries with lower MLDAs, comparing them would be
unreasonable. Younger drivers abusing drinking and driving would affect everyone and would cause disasters
everyday.
Allows supervised drinking in safe environments at the age
of 18
While this is true, allowing those who are 18 into safe zones
such as bars would allow those of younger ages more
accessibility into those zones with the use of fake IDs. How
does this work? Individuals physically age at different rates,
thus a 14 year old could pass for an 18 year old at bars.
While this is hypothetical, this is promoting alcohol use for
those under the age of 18 as well.
Traffic accidents and fatalities are common amongst newly-legal
drinkers, regardless of MLDA/ The MLDA does not correlate with the
decrease in traffic accidents since the decrease is shown across all age
groups, not just newly legal drinkings
Yes. A study did show that changing the MLDA to 21 did a general
decrease in traffic accidents within the next year, this was probably due to
the weariness drivers had when the 21 law came about and the fear of
losing funding for highways. Nevertheless, introducing alcohol at a young
age would mean possibly having more individuals on the road under the
influence. According to a 2010 census, 4% of the US’s population
consists of 18-21 year olds. Knowing this 4% more drivers on the road
might be under the influence, causing more traffic accidents and fatalities
nevertheless. (Sources: census.gov)
Fewer drunk driving accidents in many counties with the
MLDA of 18
Although countries with the fewest alcohol related
accidents have MLDAs of 18 and younger, those two
statistics don’t necessarily correlate with each other. This is
because the citizens of those countries with the fewest
fatalities don’t have access to their own personal transport.
These countries either (1) make it difficult for individuals to
achieve their license (like France, Germany, and Japan) or
(2) public transport is more common within the populous.
Knowing this, of course there wouldn’t be high rates of
traffic fatalities because everyone “safely” uses public
transport. (Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, World Atlas.com)
Lowering the MLDA would be good for the economy
Excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05
per drink, a significant increase from $223.5 billion, or $1.90 per
drink, in 2006. Most of these costs were due to reduced workplace
productivity, crime, and the cost of treating people for health
problems caused by excessive drinking. -CDC
Yes and No. While allowing more people to have the ability to
purchase consumer products, like alcohol, can benefit the
economy, there are consequences of doing such. By allowing
more people to drink, you increase the chances of more
individuals to drink excessively.When individuals drink
excessively, their behavior in the workplace can be affected to the
point where those individuals could lose their job. This causes
reduced workplace productivity.
MLDA is ineffective because the majority of teens continue
to consume alcohol
18 is the age of adulthood
MLDA 21 is not a priority for law enforcement
MLDA 21 is not associated with the lower rates of suicide,
homicide, or vandalism
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