Before you call for my head for even suggesting I think it's okay for your 14-year-old to light up, that's not at all what I'm saying. Let me explain. I live in NYC where the City Council just passed a new law raising the legal age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21. Once it's signed, New York will become the first major city to impose stricter rules against smoking, but lawmakers feel other cities are going to follow suit soon. On its surface, this seems like a great move. No one wants their child to become addicted to cigarettes and it goes without saying that adults who started smoking at an early age have a harder time quitting.
But if we're going to agree that young people are technically children until age 21, there are a lot of things we're going to have to change along with smoking laws.
At age 18, teens can vote. Many graduate high school and those that continue onto college sometimes leave home and spend the next four years caring for their own needs -- though you could argue mom and dad sometimes still pay the bills, which makes them dependent children.
But there are many teens who move out at 18 and never return home again. They've been able to drive cars since age 16 or 17, are legally able to work, enlist in the military, can be sued or sue someone else, adopt a child, get a loan, gamble, be convicted in court as an adult, work in or hang out at strip clubs, start a 401k plan, and legally change their names.
Whether we like it or not, as parents we have to put our faith in them every time they get behind the wheel of a car -- something that terrifies me even more than smoking. Some of us have to watch as they go overseas to fight in wars. And I'd hate to tell you how much easier it was for me to procure a credit card and begin ruining my credit at age 18 than it was at age 25. These are all privileges we reserve for adults.
If we agree that 18 is the age when children officially enter adulthood, we need to hold them accountable at that age. Go ahead and raise the high school drop-out age and driving age to 18, if you have to, but let's stop prolonging childhood even further.
Do you think the legal age to buy cigarettes should be raised to 21?
Image Via Fried Dough/Flickr