Drinking Age Discussion

The Drinking Age Debate

Lynne Bell

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            The argument for lowering Saskatchewan's legal drinking age is not a new one.

             In March 2013, the members of the provincial legislature voted to keep the legal drinking age in Saskatchewan at 19, instead of lowering it to the age of 18. The particular proposal to lower Saskatchewan's drinking age came about as a resolution which was passed-narrowly- by the Saskatchewan Party at its November 2012 convention. And not surprisingly, the proposal came from the party's youth wing.

            At the time, Premier Brad Wall told reporters: “We take resolutions at the convention very seriously but before we make any change, we are going to have to consult. You can see the rationale those young people come with. Someone can serve their country, be in harms way...Someone can choose our government...and yet that person serving his country can't go to the Legion and have a beer.”

            “On the other hand, do we want to be broadening the access to alcohol for young people?” added Wall. “There really is two sides.”

            Currently, almost the entire country has a legal drinking age of 19. Only Quebec-and Saskatchewan's neighbouring provinces-Alberta and Manitoba- have allowed 18-year-olds to consume and purchase liquor legally.  

            At the time, Diane Fontaine of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) stated that Saskatchewan has one of the highest impaired driving rates in Canada, most commonly among drivers 18-25 years old, adding: “Drinking is not a right; it is a privilege.”

            In Canada, federally, the age of adulthood is 18. That is, an 18-year-old can vote, join the Canadian Forces, be tried as an adult under the Criminal Code of Canada and marry without their parents' permission. However, in most provinces they cannot legally purchase or consume alcohol.

             As the premier said, there are two sides to this argument.

            In 1971, Ontario lowered its legal drinking age to 18 from 21; but since 1979, the province has settled on 19 as the province's legal drinking age. The reason for the turnaround? It occurred in part because when the age was lowered to 18, there were too many complaints of high schoolers getting drunk.

            There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that underage drinking would cease if  the legal drinking age was raised. A case in point is the U.S., where the minimum legal drinking age is 21, but where it is not uncommon for young people under the age of 21 to have consumed liquor before they were of legal age.

            As a society, we all pay the price (some more heavily than others) for alcoholism and its effects (binge drinking and impaired driving, to name two). The cost to us all is too high to legally sanction-and thereby encourage-young people to drink at an earlier age. Many 18-year-olds are still in high school and may not be prepared to deal with the potential consequences of drinking. Another concern is that schools and parents may find it more difficult to enforce abstinence among younger teens if 18 year-olds share legally-purchased alcohol with their younger peers.

            For most teenagers, the year between ages 18 and 19 is a big one. Whether the young person in question chooses to continue their formal education or whether they enter the workforce fulltime, they usually gain experience and grow in maturity, as they leave their high school selves behind.

             By choosing to leave the legal drinking age at 19, Saskatchewan is upholding balanced legislation that is in step with most of Canada. By keeping the legal drinking age where it is, the negative consequences of drinking by younger teens is probably minimized. And the province's 19-year-olds aren't treated like children-but instead, like the young adults they are.

 

Drop the drinking age

By Kelly Running

 

            Although it doesn't seem like a steep change, this week Lynne and I decided to talk about the drinking age in Saskatchewan which is 19 and if should remain or be lowered.

            Originally we were discussing 21, but realized that doesn't apply to us in the Great White North, where the provinces range only by one year. British Columbia is 19, Alberta is 18, Saskatchewan is 19, Manitoba 18, Ontario is 19, Quebec is 18, while the Maritime provinces are 19 as are the territories.

            However, around the world the majority of countries are in fact 18-years-old.

            At 18-years-old, in Canada and in most western cultures, people are considered adults. Being an adult means they receive the right to vote, are able to purchase cigarettes, serve on a jury, get married, be prosecuted under the law as an adult, and even join the military – kids are allowed to sign up to risk their life for the country, but they're not allowed to have a drink.

            They can begin blackening their lungs with cigarettes, cigars, and risk mouth cancer through purchasing chew; but, they're not allowed to have alcohol.

            With the majority of the world legal at 18, and with Saskatchewan falling in between Alberta and Manitoba who are 18, it only makes sense to change the age. While growing up, I remember classmates who planned trips with their friends to Medicine Hat. They would stay with friends or get hotel rooms and travel to Medicine Hat to drink because they were now legal.

            Is this not encouraging them to go elsewhere to drink. Had it been legal at home they would have simply made plans to go out there, instead of travelling out of province to go do this. It would therefore benefit the economy as more people would remain here to socialize, while it would also prevent them from driving (possibly hung-over or still above the legal limit) from driving home after such a weekend.

            Youth still get a hold of alcohol regardless of the drinking age, but perhaps normalizing alcohol consumption by promoting responsibility and moderation will stop binge drinking which is very typical of high school youth and college youth.

            Additionally there are fewer drunk driving traffic accidents and fatalities in countries where the legal drinking age is 18. Although the stats I found were from the 1980s.

            While researching I also discovered different countries also allow youth of 16-years-old allowed to purchase beer and wine, while they have to be 18-years-old for spirits, such as Belgium for purchasing alcohol. This is because there is no legal drinking age, just a legal purchasing age. Although it's made illegal to give alcohol to someone not of legal purchasing age in some countries.

            Why not drop the age and make it less desirable? Make it more expensive, tax it heavier, and eliminate specials of any kind at the bar if worried about 18-year-olds going out and simply getting smashed. This age group is already drinking though and would it not be better to attempt to regulate it than it to simply be happening.

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