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Legal Drinking Age Day

Legal Drinking Age Day draws awareness to the drinking age in the United States and encourages safe and moderate drinking. Following Prohibition, most states adopted a legal drinking age of 21. Between 1970 and 1975, 29 states lowered their drinking age to 18, 19, or 20. This came in the wake of the passage of the twenty-sixth Amendment, which had lowered the voting age to 18, and also during the era of the Vietnam War, when men as young as 18 were drafted to fight in a foreign country, with the real possibility of death. However studies soon came that showed the lowering of the drinking age led to a rise of motor vehicle fatalities, and there was pressure to raise it again. Some states did, to 19, 20, or 21.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act, written by Senator Frank Lautenberg [D-NJ] and influenced by Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD], was passed and then signed by President Ronald Reagan on July 17, 1984. It made 21 the drinking age in all 50 states. It did this by reducing highway funding by 10% to any state that didn't comply. (Starting in 2012, the funding cut in states of noncompliance went down to 8%.) The legislation outlawed the purchase and public possession—not consumption—of alcohol for those under 21. Five states extended it to a ban on consumption for those under 21. Many other states made laws that said that alcohol could be consumed in the presence and with the permission of a parent or guardian. While Legal Drinking Age Day is centered around this legislation, it doesn't take place on July 17, on the legislation's anniversary, but on July 21, apparently, because it is the anniversary of the birth of Ernest Hemingway, the Lost Generation writer who was a proponent of masculinity and known for being a ravenous drinker of alcohol.

How to Observe Legal Drinking Age Day

  • Have a legal drink in a bar, or pick up some liquor, beers, or wine to drink at home.
  • Remember the first legal drink you had and drink that. Maybe you could even drink it at the place you first had it!
  • Have one Ernest Hemingway's favorite drinks, since the holiday takes place on his birthday, such as Death in the Gulf Stream or the Hemingway Daiquiri.
  • Teach your children about responsible drinking—about the risks of underage drinking, the risks of binge drinking, and about how they should never drink and drive.

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