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Three BeersOften a complex problem has multiple answers. Such is the case when it comes to permitting young adults to drink alcohol. Here are two different ways that the problem is solved, and we ask you to review this and then sound off on which of these is the better answer?

In the United States, all 50 states currently have 21 as the minimum age for public purchase and consumption of alcohol. In 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which required states to raise the minimum age for the purchase and public possession to 21 by October 1986 or lose 10% of their federal highway funds. This act countered the movement from 1969 to 1976, when thirty out of fifty U.S. states lowered the ages, generally to 18. This action coincided with changing the voting age and age of majority from 21 to 18 in 1971 by the 26th amendment. Between 1976 to 1983, several states independently raised their liquor purchasing ages generally to ages 19, 20 or 21, to fight an increase in drunk driving statistics. By 1988, all 50 states and the District of Columbia were in compliance.

The drinking age of 21 remains a point of contention with a number Americans. Some cite that this is in conflict with age 18, the age of majority in most U.S. states. Others reference that age 21 is significantly higher than legal drinking ages in most Western countries. Still others feel that The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was a congressional side step of the Tenth Amendment, and consider this area to be a state’s rights issue. Opponents to any changes in the current laws cite that alcohol-related fatalities are still the number one preventable cause of death for young adults under age 24.

In Canada, each individual province and territory can define the legal drinking age. Young adults may legally purchase and publically consume alcohol at either age 18 or 19 depending on the province. In Québec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, there is zero tolerance for any consumption of alcohol in your system whatsoever while operating a motor vehicle for drivers under age 22. In Ontario, for example, if you are under age 22 and you are found to have alcohol in your system; your driver’s license is suspended immediately for 24 hours. You will face fines up to $500 and a 30-day license suspension. A second offense could result in a 90-day suspension. A third offense could mean surrendering one’s license altogether. In Québec, a first offense results in an immediate three-month suspension of their license, fines up to $600 and a loss of four demerit points. In Canada, initial access to alcohol is relaxed for young adults, but the consequences seem far greater if they are caught drunk driving.

Which is the better way to regulate drinking by young adults? Is a total prohibition until age 21 the answer, as in the United States? Or is a more lenient age for consumption at age 19, with a harsher consequence of zero tolerance for driving with alcohol in your system the answer, as in Canada? Which do you feel is the BETTER ANSWER when it comes to young adult drinking?

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