Rep. Cabello proposes lowering legal drinking age to 18


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Assistant Minority Leader and State Representative John M. Cabello (R-Machesney Park) has announced that he is sponsoring a bill to amend the Liquor Control Act of 1934, which seeks to change the legal age for possessing, consuming, and manufacturing alcohol from 21 to 18 years old. Cabello has been a Rockford Police officer since 1995, a group not usually known for wanting to loosen criminal laws. He has even specialized in traffic investigations.

“Many 18-year-olds are already contributing members of society, working full-time jobs, attending college, and serving – and in some cases dying for – our country in the military,” said Rep. Cabello. “By lowering the drinking age, we are acknowledging their maturity and ability to make responsible decisions, just as we do in other aspects of their lives.” 

After the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, many state legislators adopted similar arguments and lowered their drinking age too. But in 1984, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act caused all 50 states to raise their minimum drinking ages back up to 21 to avoid losing federal highway funding.

Rep. Cabello believes that lowering the drinking age to bring Illinois in line with states like Wisconsin and Ohio, where 18-year-olds can order alcoholic beverages if a parent or guardian is present, will have more families eating inside of restaurants which generates economic activity. It will also avoid putting federal dollars for road construction and maintenance at risk if the General Assembly decides to move forward with the measure.

He argues that young adults who are considered responsible enough to vote, serve in the military, get married, and make other important life decisions should also have the right to consume alcohol responsibly.

The proposed legislation also aims to reduce the prevalence of underage drinking by eliminating the allure of alcohol as a “forbidden fruit” and promoting a culture of responsible alcohol consumption. Rep. Cabello maintains that by allowing 18-year-olds to legally purchase and consume alcohol, they will be more likely to learn responsible habits and avoid dangerous binge drinking.

On the other hand, studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control found that states that increased the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 saw a 16% median decline in motor vehicle crashes. When all states raised their age limit to 21, drinking among persons aged 18 to 20 years declined from 59% in 1985 to 40% in 1991. It even declined significantly among people aged 21 to 25, from 70% in 1985 to 56% in 1991, as well as among younger teens. But critics say that these declines began in the 1970s, before states raised their age limits. Still, insurance companies have successfully argued that younger drivers, even up to age 25, should be charged higher premiums, even though they are legally adults.

The bill will be debated in the coming weeks as it makes its way through the legislative process. Rep. Cabello is encouraging constituents to voice their opinions on the matter and welcomes open dialogue on the proposal.

For more information on this legislation, please contact Rep. John Cabello’s office at (815) 974-0090 or visit his website at

John M. Cabello is the Assistant Minority Leader and State Representative for Illinois’ 90th House District, which includes Roscoe, Loves Park, Rockton, South Beloit, Caledonia, and Durand.

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