Proposed smoking age a political move

To the editor:
    Recently in New Jersey there is a proposal to increase the minimum age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21. The drinking age of 21 was a random age that was politically chosen. There is no scientific evidence to support 21 as the age that one can start consuming alcohol. It is entirely without scientific basis.
    In fact, looking at a scientific basis, the human brain takes many years to mature. It is true of all animals higher up on the food chain that a longer time is taken to reach adult maturity.
    In terms of the human brain, the emotional loading and development of the brain is fully operational by the time the child is five years old. At that point he/she has all her emotions, as they are so vital to one’s survival.
    In contrast, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is unique to humans, and the part of the brain that tells you to follow the rules, not speed and basically use common sense, takes 28 years to develop.
    The lack of prefrontal cortex development in children shows why they do so many foolish things.
    One can learn algebra and other facts before 28; it is just that the ability to think clearly and logically about one’s best interest and plan accordingly is not fully developed until 28.
    So if one wanted to use science as a basis ýPage=004 Column=001 OK,0022.00þ for determining the onset of privileged behaviors such as smoking and drinking then the brain development age of 28 would be the most logical since this is based on science and not an arbitrary standard of 21 that was politically determined.
    The only argument that will probably be made against the scientific 28-year standard would be in terms of its financial loss on liquor and cigarette manufacturers from those under 28 that are not allowed to smoke and drink, but the change certainly would go a long way to increasing traffic safety, decreasing crime as well as increasing health among those under 18.
Ronald J. Coughlin, Ed.D.
Mr. Coughlin is a licensed psychologist in New Jersey and Pennsylvania .