Although the legal purchase age is 19, a majority of young people under this age consume alcohol, and too many of them do so in an irresponsible manner. This is largely because drinking is seen by these youth as an enticing forbidden fruit, a trophy of rebellion against authority, and a symbol of adulthood. We can relate the illegal ways of the youth today, to the measures taken during the prohibition in Canada from 1918 to 1920. These efforts to prevent drinking were unenforceable and created serious social problems such as the development of immoderate consumption patterns, widespread disrespect for law, and the growth of organized crime. These problems are very similar to the troubles we face today with underage drinking.
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The lowering of the legal drinking age would be an important step in the direction of decreasing alcohol abuse among the youth. The experience of many societies and groups with lower drinking ages demonstrates that drinking problems are reduced when young people learn at home from their parents how to drink in a moderate and responsible manner. Lowering the drinking age would help send the important message that drinking is, in itself, not evidence of maturity, but that responsible consumption for those who choose to drink is evidence of maturity. One must reinforce the norm of moderation by making it clear that the abuse of alcohol is completely unacceptable by anyone. This would help stress that it is not the drinking that is the problem but rather drinking abusively that is the problem.
Does anyone seriously contend that alcoholic beverages should be free of societal controls? The question isn't whether there should be controls, but which controls work best. What has proven around the world to work best is a combination of reasonable laws backed by strong social sanctions. But in North-America emerging adults are treated as infants and get infantile behaviour as a result. If adults would learn to temper their patronizing attitudes toward young men and women, more maturity, self-restraint, and social