OPINION: An Argentinean perspective on American underage drinking


Bruno Echt Fusaro / Hilltop Views

Bryce Tyranski, head brewer and co-founder of Nomadic Beerworks.

If you told me you never drank alcohol before the legal drinking age, I wouldn’t believe you. I think this applies to every country and each culture. In my home country of Argentina, 77% of teenagers drink alcohol before the age 14. Similarly, in the United States in 2019, about 24.6% of youth ages 14 to 15 reported having at least one drink in their lifetime. Only 7% of the world’s nations, or 14 countries, have legal drinking ages of 21, the U.S. being the only one in the Americas and Europe. People will always find a way to get alcohol no matter their age — and if this is the case, why is the drinking age 21 in the USA? 

To clarify some doubts, I decided to talk to a member of the alcohol industry. I spoke with Bryce Tyranski, head brewer and co-founder of Nomadic Beerworks, a local brewery only a few blocks from campus. He mentioned traveling abroad extensively, which made him realize there is a “weird culture about drinking” in the USA. 

“As soon as people leave their parents’ houses and you see your friends drinking, people like to go pretty hard in a way that might not be as healthy,” Tyranski said.

Nonetheless, he mentioned that alcohol consumption for underage people might vary according to their place of residence. Living in a big city offers entertainment that does not rely on alcohol, while alcohol plays a bigger role for teenagers and young adults in uneventful small towns.

“If there is enough to do in the city for people who are under 21, the amount of alcohol consumption might be less,” Tyranski said. “If you live in a small town, that (there) is not much to do, heavy alcohol consumption is bigger than in cities.”

It’s important to consider the education on alcohol usage and regulation that high school and college students receive. Underage drinking is also determined by upbringing. Coming from a stricter family can create complications in communicating about alcohol; therefore, there is less education for these people which can create scenarios where some will mix hard liquor with little food in their stomachs. There is no better place to start exploring alcoholic beverages than at home with the people you trust the most. With your parents or confidants, you will surely learn a few lessons in alcohol drinking and mixing. 

Another reason behind underage alcohol consumption relates to the psychological reactance theory. Losing freedoms like drinking motivates you to restore them, even if they are illegal. This activity may be fun for some underage drinkers just because they shouldn’t do it. 

This is not different from the unintended consequences of the Prohibition Era, which Tyranski draws connections to: “The legal age is a remnant of the prohibition age.” 

Although prohibition came to an end, the Nomadic co-founder does not think the legal age will ever change in the U.S. 

Although our background determines the factors mentioned, in the end, we still have an element of choice. Being aware of these factors can promote a healthier habit of alcohol. The problem is not in the age you drink (when it is over 14- to 16-years-old, but how you drink. It’s your choice to moderate alcohol usage. I do not believe that alcohol ruins your life; rather, you choose to ruin your life via your alcohol practices.

As an international student, it is surprising how many people black-out at ages 18 to 21, and then mention how much fun it was. In my experience, the only way to learn how to drink alcohol is by trial and error. We can all make dumb mistakes and drink too much for a night or two, but when this is a persistent problem, it implies a lack of education about alcohol and poor alcohol culture. There is no need to overdrink consistently when you can get exposed to dangerous situations and face consequences the day after. 

Alcohol can ruin your life in the blink of an eye. It’s a double-edged sword whose usage relies only on you. But if you disagree with me and want to talk more about this, I’m always available via email at [email protected]