飲酒喫煙の年齢 18歳解禁は理解を得られない

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Drinking, smoking ban should stay when age of majority is lowered to 18
飲酒喫煙の年齢 18歳解禁は理解を得られない

Reducing the age of majority would affect various fields. It is essential to look into the advisability of meticulously revising relevant laws one by one.

The Liberal Democratic Party has put together recommendations to lower the age of majority set at 20 under the Civil Code to 18. The ruling party will report the recommendations to the government by the end of this month.

The move is in response to the enactment of the revised Public Offices Election Law under which the voting age has been lowered to 18. The age for exercising the right to vote should correspond to the age of eligibility for other rights and the obligation to take responsibility under the Civil Code.

If the age of majority is lowered to 18, it will become possible to take out loans and enter other commercial contracts without parental approval. Efforts must be made to promote consumer education at school and with other programs to prevent young people from falling victim to illegal business practices.

The LDP has postponed a decision on whether to lower the legal age for drinking and smoking.

Initially, the party tried to come up with a proposal to permit drinking and smoking from the age of 18 but kicked the plan down the road in the face of opposition from within the party and the medical world. The postponement is quite natural.

If smoking starts early in adolescence, it increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The Japan Medical Association warns that habitual smoking by those aged less than 20 adversely affects brain growth and leads to early onset of dementia and other diseases.

Adverse health impacts

Furthermore, the younger one starts drinking, the higher the risk of suffering from alcoholism, according to experts.

Considering the possible adverse health effects, lowering the age for permitting smoking and drinking will never obtain social understanding.

How to rein in social welfare spending amid dire fiscal straits is a huge challenge. From this point of view, too, no policy change that would entail an increase in medical spending should be made.

Drinking and smoking can also lead to juvenile delinquency. Moreover, student guidance at high school would become confused if students aged 18, who are allowed to drink and smoke, and those aged 17 attended the same school. Lowering the legal age for drinking and smoking would also make it more difficult for schools to give guidance to students under school rules that ban such behavior.

Concerning the minimum age for application of the Juvenile Law, the LDP has proposed lowering it from “less than 20” to “less than 18.”

To encourage rehabilitation for those aged 18 and 19 who will be excluded from the application of the Juvenile Law if the age of application is lowered, the party has called for implementing such probational measures as provided for by the Juvenile Law by prioritizing correctional education over punishment. This recommendation is reasonable.

Sending teenage violators to reformatories where correctional education is provided or placing them on probation to give them chances for rehabilitation in society is greatly helpful in preventing juvenile recidivism. If the age for application of the Juvenile Law is lowered to “less than 18,” it will be necessary to deepen discussions about when to apply probational measures to those aged 18 and 19.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 22, 2015)

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