From the 1970s on, American society began re-exploring the social costs of drinking and a wave of neo-temperance activity ensued. Following Prohibition the temperance movement’s focus shifted from cessation of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages to marketing issues, access, and controlling personal behavior via taxation. One major aspect of this new regulatory landscape was the change in the minimum drinking age.542
Ironically, in America, a drinking age of eighteen was a relatively new phenomenon and represented a mid-point in rapidly changing societal values. As the baby boom grew to maturity, its huge size impacted society. The social activism of the 1960s and the Vietnam War prompted the federal government, in 1971, to lower the voting age to eighteen. One compelling argument for the decrease in the voting age was the connection between the draft, the war, and the vote. A popular slogan was “Old enough to die for my country, old enough to vote.”543 Ultimately twenty-nine states followed suit in regard to the drinking age, apparently believing that fighting in a war entitled you to both vote and drink.544
As soon as states lowered the drinking age, car accidents and deaths increased dramatically. By 1980, the negative connection between eighteen year
542 Pamela Pennock, “Public Health Morality and Commercial Free Expression: Efforts to Control Cigarette and Alcohol Marketing 1950s – 1980s” (Ph.D. diss., Ohio State University, 2002), 21.
543 Ruth Clifford Engs, Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000), 211; C. Louis Bassano, “The Legal Drinking Age: Should It Be 21 Again?” New York Times, July 12, 1981, NJ, 24.
544 Iver Peterson, “Drinking Age Tied to Fall in Crashes,” New York Times, November 4, 1981, A18.