CONTRA: the legal age


Vivian Chiang

*All names that begin with J are false names to protect the anonymous sources.

Curiosity killed the cat

She sits alone on her bed in the corner of her bedroom, one hand fiddling with the edge of the foil wrapped around the mint. Before she could change her mind, she tears the foil and pops the mint in her mouth, feeling it instantly dissolve. She closes her eyes and waits. It was Jill’s first time tripping on acid.

“I felt my body kind of tingle and finally felt something kick in,” Jill said. “I started seeing [the things] in my room in different colors and shapes.”

At MVHS, 57 percent of students, out of a poll of 230 students, claim they have been introduced into the drug culture or someone they know has. But at what cost?

“I read that tripping can be very spiritual and stimulating,” Jill said. “I was going through a tough time with people and I thought it could help me.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that one of the five leading causes in which minors do drugs is to experiment.

Curiosity. It’s natural to go against the system, to want to rebel, to want to do exactly what you were told since day one not to do.

But curiosity killed the cat, right?

Well, not always.

The lucky numbers

The National Institutes of Health states, “Alcohol and tobacco are the drugs most commonly abused by adolescents, followed by marijuana.”

Alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are all legal drugs. But there’s a catch; you must be 21 or older to use them.

“Teenagers are going to smoke anyways [since adults do it,] so it should be legal at an earlier age,” Jill said. “Also, weed is not super harmful like cigarettes are, [so] I don’t think it should be judged on the same level as cigarettes.”


The number 21 seems to have come out of thin air, a shift in which a single day turns you from an irresponsible child to a responsible adult. These age restricting rules come from a combination of different laws, created decades ago.

The National Minimum Age Drinking Act of 1984 is a currently used law which was created in hopes of limiting alcohol consumption after failing to enforce the previously ratified law of 1919 which enacted a zero-alcohol-consumption rule.

Prior to 1984, the age of alcohol consumption was decided by the state. Almost all states had lowered the legal drinking age from 21 to 18 after many argued that if someone is allowed to serve in a foreign war, they should be allowed to drink. When the National Minimum Age Drinking Act of 1984 was enacted, the bill threatened that any state which did not comply to raise the minimum drinking age to 21 would lose out on a portion of federally funded highways.

Harsh, America. Harsh.

So, that explains why an age restriction exists, period. Yet, it still fails to indicate why 21 is the prized number. Three years out of high school and suddenly you’re a new person?

In fact, the person who started the movement to enforce the Bill of 1984, Candy Lightner of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, had lost her daughter due to an adult driving under the influence.

The government took a toll on the youth population, labeling them as irresponsible and unfit to handle alcohol, when the entire movement was started because of one, and several irresponsible adult drivers.


The typically hushed up topic only mentioned in whispers and nudges, sex, is actually common among teenage kids as well. NBC News states that the average age of losing virginity is 16.9 for males and 17.4 for females. Of 229 students, over half claim they have had sex before or know of someone who has.

Jasmin lost her virginity when she was 15-years-old.

“I did it because I wanted to,” Jasmin said. “Especially in the Monta Vista area, you can have sex safely without contracting diseases or getting pregnant. I think the people here are pretty responsible.”

Viewing inappropriate content, such as pornography, which is illegal to be viewed or bought until the age of 18, is often viewed as ‘dirty’ and looked down upon. However, again, just like sex and drugs, viewing pornography occurs. Out of 226 MVHS students, 61 percent watched or knew someone who watched pornography at least once in their life. Yet, 40 percent of students out of 221 claim they view it as something ìdirtyî or ìshameful.î

“I [watch porn] for myself,” Jose said. “I feel like most of [the stigma behind a minor watching it] is based on embarrassment that people do it themselves … A lot of it is because in predominantly Indian and Asian societies, parents are ‘taboo-ing’ even talking about things like that.”

False innocence

Aside from drugs, sex and alcohol, the norm when it comes to illegal juvenile activities, there are events in which teens obtain a fake ID. Out of 224 MVHS students, 29 percent claim either they or someone they know has a fake ID.

Google autofills the search ‘how to get’ with the most popularly searched phrase: ‘how to get a fake ID.’ And the reasons for fake IDs may be less fraudulent than for illegal and dangerous activities such.

“A lot of events I go [like raves and regular concerts,] are 18+ and then they require and ID, but I think it’s really dumb that there’s an age limit to go to events,” said Jasmin. “I feel like everyone had the right to see an artist that they enjoy and they shouldn’t put an age limit on that.”

The most popular argument is that teens are simply not responsible enough to partake in activities including drugs, sex and other ‘adult-rated’ pastimes. Though, if something is bad for teens, what makes it okay for adults?

Many European countries have younger drinking ages compared to the United States. These arbitrary numbers set standards of responsibility, yet, oftentimes people are left with little understanding as to where they came from. Because really, they lack the validity necessary to be set.

Germany, 16+. France, 16+. Great Britain, 18+. Canada, 18+.

America, 21+?