Contrary to popular belief, the United States of America does not have a high drinking age. In fact, the United States does not even have a nationwide drinking age.
Now before all you crazy kids run out to your local tavern and demand the bartender serve you, continue reading.
In the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, the federal government passed a law that withheld funding from states where it was not illegal for persons under 21 to buy or publically possess alcohol. Of course, the states complied. So now, across the country, it is illegal for people under 21 to PURCHASE or PUBLICALLY POSSESS alcohol.
You see what I did there?
Public Possession, as defined by the Act, does not apply to: established religious purposes, medical purposes, in private clubs or establishments, or if you are employed by a manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer of alcoholic beverages. Think about drinking in the line of duty.
Only in Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Washington DC is it absolutely forbidden that persons under the age of 21 let any liquor touch their lips. In California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wyoming there are exceptions to the rules, mostly building on the exceptions in the federal law.
So what about the other 23 states? They have no laws banning the CONSUMPTION of alcohol by a minor.
To reiterate, America does not have a high drinking age. It does, however, have the highest purchasing age in the world, along with Fiji, Palau, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
"Why is this?" you may ask yourself. America has had a long-standing battle with alcohol. In 1919, a constitutional amendment was passed prohibiting the manufacturing, sale, and transporting of alcohol. It was later repealed in 1933. It was then left to the states to regulate.
Alcohol is a drug. The horrible implications that it brings to society have been calculated. Last year, the World Health Organization announced that alcohol abuse claims more lives annually than Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and Tuberculosis (TB). Perhaps a high purchasing age is designed to make sure we are completely aware of the facts before buying this poison.
A generation ago, tobacco ads filled our magazines and airwaves. Perhaps in our children's lifetime, they will look back at us and ask "How could you do that to yourself?"
Until then, I guess it's bottoms up.