2 mins read

Individual Choice and Substance Use

State elections were held last week, meaning people of all age groups over 18 and backgrounds brought their opinions to the polls to vote on issues of great importance to them, their communities and the nation.

In South Dakota alone, issues regarding taxation, marijuana use and the expansion of Medicaid were all brought to the table for voters. These subjects all contain serious matters with consequences no matter if you voted for or against the measure, and individuals as young as 18 were meant to vote and have a say in these crucial decisions. 

However, their freedoms outside the realm of voting are limited and make it seem as if they aren’t mature enough to handle responsibility. The national drinking age is 21 years, and the same age is required to purchase tobacco products as of recent rulings. It seems ironic that something as precious as a state and country’s future can reside in the hands of people so young, but these same individuals are not legally allowed to make more personal choices for themselves. 

Apparently waiting three years to turn 21 is required before you are able to make “adult” decisions about drinking or smoking. People who are 18 are allowed to vote in elections that decide national issues but are required to follow other people’s ideas about decisions of personal substance use. While the misuse of both alcohol and tobacco have serious repercussions, the problems do not decrease as people get older. 

The health risks that accompany the substances are a reality for everyone, and adults should be able to make their own choice regarding things that will affect their bodies. Essentially, if lawmakers believe an 18-year-old is competent enough to educate themselves on policies and vote, then they should expect them to make equally reasonable decisions with alcohol and tobacco. 

It would also make the substances seem less like “forbidden fruit,” and it’s possible legalization at a younger age would render them less appealing. 

In any case, there should not be discrepancies with what we trust our youth with and allowing them more personal autonomy can only expand their experiences and allow them to understand real responsibility where both voting and alcohol use is concerned.