Sunday, November 22

Smoking, Drinking, and Voting

Years ago, when I was working my tail off at my first “real” job out of college as a Catering Manager, I was incredibly irritated to discover that I could not rent a car for a business trip. I wasn't old enough.

Not long after, desperate to get to where I was headed despite all the planes being grounded due to nasty weather, an airport car rental place again refused to rent to me because I wasn't 25.

I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it was both times to stand there at the counter faced with the ludicrous facts. I had been a safe and licensed driver for more than half a dozen years already, and routinely drove catering vans and other expensive commercial vehicles in addition to my own car. I was trusted to manage expensive events, make hiring and firing decisions, and represent my account at regional events. I had all kinds of insurance, and nothing but a speeding ticket or two on my record. But I couldn't rent a freaking basic model sedan.

Then, as now, I was appalled and baffled by the notion that we as a society so strangely differentiate between what we think individuals should and should not be able to do at 18. Vote? Sure! Get married? Absolutely. Join the military to fight (and sometimes die) for one's country? You bet. Buy your own beer? Oh no you don't! Rent a car? No way! What are you, nuts?

By what bizarre logic does that make sense?

Apparently, it must make sense to someone, because the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging the FDA to enact restrictions that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing cigarettes, tobacco, or vaping products. Certainly, I understand their concerns about the health hazards that nicotine and tobacco pose, particularly to young people. But frankly, the second-class citizenship status of young adults is already untenable. To try to press it even further is simply unreasonable.

I'd encourage the AAP (and others who support their proposal) to read Do Hard Things, and challenge them to reconsider their approach. Numerous books (like this one) lay out the research proving time and again that we do not create the kinds of adults we as a society need (and that we as individuals want to be, or be related to!) by protecting children from the consequences of their decisions. That only becomes exponentially more true for teenagers and adults. So instead of floating ideas that give us warm, fuzzy “saving the world” feelings, what if we sucked up the sometimes discouraging realities of life and took the wiser tack?

What if we dropped the age for everything – drinking, smoking, renting a car – to 18, and made young adults actually full adults? What if we adopted scary PSAs that actually show the true cost of our choices, and let people make their own choices? I think we might just be surprised by how far ahead we'd come out…

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