Wed 20 Nov 2013 @ 01:22 PM


Age of Majority

A question was asked on Facebook about whether the law in Utah should be changed to prohibit tobacco purchases until age 21. It is currently 19 in Utah. One person brought up it'll never work, underage smoking will still take place. Another chimed in with the old "if they're old enough to die for their country they're old enough to drink & smoke" excuse that I find silly. Here are my more detailed thoughts on the subject.

You'll never get 100% compliance with the law. Despite laws, many people drive faster than the posted speed limit. Despite laws, a few people murder other people. Just because something can't be 100% successful does not mean we should or shouldn't enact it. Good ideas must stand on their own.

As for the right to vote or to die in the military being reason why people should be allowed to smoke / drink / whatever, I think that's nonsense. It can be carried to ludicrous extremes. Just because someone is old enough to do X does not mean Y logically follows.

There are restrictions at many ages. At 18 you can vote and run for many public offices. At 19 (in Utah) allows you to buy tobacco (for now). At 21 you can buy alcohol. Reach 25 and you're allowed to run for the House of Representatives. Reach 30 and you can run for the Senate. Live until the ripe old age of 35 and you can run for President.

Those are all fine and good, but the real perks don't start kicking in for another 27 years. At 62 you're allowed by law to forcibly take money for yourself from other people regardless of need, and at 65, you get to forcibly take even more of their money to cover your health care regardless of need!

Slightly more seriously (not that the preceding paragraph isn't serious in its own way): Research shows that the brain does not stop developing until at least 25 on average, and even more recent research suggests it may continue changing and not reach its "most developed" until ones 30s or 40s. I don't think it is unreasonable to at least consider limitations put on people based on their level of maturity based on societal averages.

But forget all that! If an 18 year old is old enough to do everything, then really, why not let 17 year 51 week old people do it too? I mean, it's only a week. Not much will change in that week (other than having traveled an extra 11 million or so miles around the sun). And if we concede that point, then 17 years 50 weeks isn't any worse. And so on and so on.

Hey, we think 16 year olds are responsible enough to drive, why not smoke & drink?

How about 13 year olds? Laws regulating the internet typically give 13 years as the age they're responsible enough to handle things online. Congratulations, have a beer and a smoke!

Wow, a 5 year old is mature enough to start going to public school without parental supervision! That's undoubtedly old enough to make all the other decisions.

Or the more reasonable approach: Just because someone managed to survive for 6,574 days or so does not mean they're suddenly ready to deal with things they couldn't at 6,573 days. 18 is not a magical age. Maybe they should be allowed to smoke or drink, maybe not, but if they are, it's not because they are able to volunteer for military service and possibly die in combat.

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