One 1/1/2016, Hawaii, our fiftieth state, raises the legal age for all tobacco and e-cig products to twenty-one. As someone who believes tobacco to be a vile weed, I salute them as long as they can enforce it. I would not feel the same way if Colorado did it because they have legalized marijuana and it would seem odd if you have to be twenty-one for a pack of cigarettes but can legally smoke pot at eighteen. I am probably one of the last people who thinks legalization of marijuana is a mistake, but that is not the topic of this post.
Before 1971, the legal age of the majority across the board was twenty-one. With the exception of the driver’s license at sixteen plus (depending on what state), twenty-one meant twenty-one with respect to all rights as a legally consenting adult. The reduction in the age of the majority was mainly due to the war in Viet Nam and lowering of the draft age from twenty-two to nineteen. It was not right that you could be involuntary forced into combat where you could be killed but you could not vote or take a drink (alcohol). Now that we have an all-voluntary military, this 1970s innovation has grown obsolete. And rather than have some rights and privileges on the eighteenth birthday and wait three more years for the rest, I think the time has come for an age of the majority of twenty-one across the board once again. Little comment on tobacco, it is not fit for man or beast at any age. Eighteen year olds are not ready to drink alcohol; I agree. They are not ready for credit cards or to sign contracts without the supervision of parent or guardian either. One way to stop cyber bullying would be to deny access to social media to anyone under twenty-one although if a less-responsible parent can buy liquor or cigarettes for their underage child, that same parent can grant them access to social media too. Worth a try, though. And how about gun ownership? Mental illness is a problem at any age, but if a less than fully developed cranium leads to sixteen year old drivers doing stupid things, I’m sure there will be less gun-related issues if you need to be twenty-one before second amendment rights kick in. The only thing I may cut slack on is voting; but few eighteen year olds actually exercise their right to vote. And if there is a need to reinstitute a military draft, we can grant early emancipation to anyone drafted to the military under the age of twenty-one.
With one and only one age of the majority, laws get much easier to enforce. In my home state of Connecticut, those between sixteen and twenty with a valid driver’s license have a big letter Y across the license for Youth. The letter Y would mean no tobacco or alcohol and clerks at establishments that sell both would not have to card on two standards. It will also make it easier for parents of college students if they are still youths at least to their senior year in college and parents could be more forceful to encourage good grades and discourage bad behavior.
One price we would pay is with youth crime. In most cases, violent crimes such as murder or rape, minors are tried as adults. But in other cases, Juvy Halls across the nation would be a little more crowded. The “Affluenza” kid, Ethan Couch (and his mom) is a prime example. Some details would have to be worked out, but once the kinks are out, I believe overall America would be better off with an age of the majority of twenty-one across the board.