By Bobby Gerome ‘21
Children are taught when young that the magic age for becoming an adult is 18. Eighteen is the legal adult age because people gain multiple freedoms and rights. However, people at the ages of 18 through 20 do not have as many freedoms and rights as people who are over 21, such as alcohol consumption, tobacco, and in some places, gambling. One of these rights that used to be given to 18-year-olds was taken away from them in late 2019 when the FDA raised the legal tobacco age to 21. This has led me to ask, “What makes someone a legal adult?”
One of the first things that is typically brought up when describing what makes someone a legal adult is the right to vote. For the entire history of our country’s existence, the legal voting age was 21. This all changed in 1971 when President Richard Nixon certified the 26th Amendment, giving U.S. citizens the right to vote at 18 years of age. Another issue that Nixon had on his plate in 1971 was the Vietnam War, which was the last time in current American history that young men were drafted to the military. Registering for the draft is another aspect that makes someone a legal adult. The law is that all men that reside in the United States who are 18 through 25 years of age must register for the draft.
Eighteen is also the age where young adults are legally allowed to enlist in the military without parental consent. An 18-year-old can also buy and sell both real estate and stock, inherit property, enter into binding contracts, and get sued. In addition to suing/ getting sued, an 18-year-old is also eligible for jur y duty and is responsible for his/her own taxes turned in on time. Finally, most states allow 18-year-olds to get married, and some states allow people 18 and older to gamble. When people turn 18, in almost every aspect, they become adults.
Eighteen-year-olds have the opportunity to do many things that they were unable to do before. However, there are a few things that other adults can do that 18-year-olds cannot do. To start, people cannot buy or drink alcohol until they turn 21. However, this has not always been the law. After the twenty first amendment got rid of prohibition in 1933, each individual state made their own laws for the age to legally consume alcohol. For most states, including Ohio, the law was that anyone over the age of 21 could drink any type of alcohol, but people that were 18 through 20 could also consume a certain type of alcohol. These beverages had to have 3.2 percent of alcohol in them or less, and were commonly known as three-two beer. After the 26th Amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote, many states lowered their legal drinking age to 18, 19, or 20; but in 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. This act was effective in making states raise the legal drinking age to 21, because the government would take away a significant amount of federal transportation funds from the states if they did not raise the legal drinking age to 21.
To this day, the legal drinking age in all fifty states is 21. Another right that people 21 and older get is the right to smoke tobacco. Until a few months ago, the legal age for using tobacco products was 18 in Ohio. This changed in late 2019, when Congress made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to give, sell, or otherwise distribute any tobacco products or alternative nicotine products such as vapes and e-cigarettes. Finally, only people 21 and older can gamble in 29 of the 50 states, including Ohio.
Over the last few months, the topic of what age makes someone a legal adult has been brought to attention in the media and on the internet a few times. In my opinion, there should be one specific age that someone receives all of the rights listed in this article, and legally becomes an adult. Someone who can vote, get married, buy a house, invest in stocks, and die for their country, sometimes after being made to go to war instead of enlisting, should be able to drink, smoke, and gamble. If this were to happen, then there would be three options for what the age for becoming an adult would be. One is that the legal age for drinking, smoking and gambling would have to be lowered to 18. Another is that the legal age for being in court for jury duty, being sued, suing, buying a house, getting married, voting, entering the military by enlisting or being drafted, and many other things would have to be raised to 21. The third and final option would be making a compromise and changing the legal age for someone to receive all of the rights listed in this article to 19 or 20. I am completely neutral when it comes to which of these three options I support. As stated earlier, I do not advocate for people doing harmful things to themselves like drinking and smoking at a young, premature age. I also do not recommend people doing some of the things listed in this article while they are still in high school/college. I just think that a young adult should receive all of the rights that any other adult has at one age.