SCRANTON — It was 30 years ago this week that President Ronald Reagan signed the Minimum Age Drinking Act into law, effectively setting the age of 21 as the legal drinking age across the country.
Before July 17, 1984 different states had different drinking ages.
In Pennsylvania it was still 21, but it was 18 in New York, and 19 in New Jersey.
The act that President Reagan signed was based on a study that said by 21 the brain is better developed to make important decisions.
Now 30 years later, it is still unclear if the law has made a positive impact on teenage drinking.
“I recall personally we used to go up to Binghamton and Kirkwood. And when we would go away for the summer, you would go down to the shore. We used to go to Wildwood was the big place to go at that time and it was 18 to drink,” said Tom Barrett.
For almost 40 years now, Tom Barrett has owned and run Joyce’s Cafe, a bar in the Minooka section of Scranton.
He thinks the law helps prevent drunk driving among younger people. But he said if you’re old enough to join the military, you should be old enough to drink alcohol, too.
“I think it’s kind of sad that if someone is in the military and they come in, they can’t have a drink because they’re not 21, but they were just fighting for us somewhere to protect us and that I think, like it’s good and it’s bad. You know what I mean?”
Among college students in the area, the feeling is the same.
In China, the drinking age is 18 years old, although the law is not strictly enforced.
Newswatch 16 spoke with a graduate student from China at the University of Scranton.
“It doesn’t matter that much, like you can drink anytime, so you won’t get really drunk. So it won’t be a big deal, actually,” said Wejing Hao of China.
Other college students agreed.
“It works in other countries where its lower, so if it was going to be 18, I think it would work for us here, just because I know a majority of the kids in college start drinking and they’re underage anyway,” said Julia Harrison of Scranton, a University of Scranton student.