Kids can't buy cigarettes, alcohol or tickets to an X-Rated movie, so why are they allowed to buy video games that are rated, "adults only" or "mature?"

Flickr user: RebeccaPollard

That's what one New Jersey Assemblyman wants to know and he's sponsoring a bill to make it illegal for minors to purchase the games.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), a non-profit, self-regulatory body, independently assigns ratings to video games. Assemblyman Sean Kean has introduced legislation to prevent minors from purchasing "mature" or "adults only" rated video games.

"The ESRB's ratings are designed to alert parents to the content of the games, however, they do preclude a retailer from selling them to minors," says Kean. "The bottom line is games rated 'mature or "adults only' should not be sold to minors. They are often very violent, sexually explicit and deal with themes not appropriate for children."

Kean has unveiled two bills.

The first measure prohibits the sale of any video game with an ESRB rating of "mature" or "adults only" to a person under the age of 18. A violation carries a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense. The State Attorney General would be permitted to issue "cease and desist" orders against the retailer and award punitive damages to the minor.

"Just as it's unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it's detrimental to their well being, the same can be said of adult video games, most of which contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer's eyes and ears," says Kean. "These two pieces of legislation are intended to protect children."

Under the second bill, minors would be permitted to purchase video games containing mature and adult content only if their parent or guardian is present during the purchase and gives their consent verbally or in writing at the time of the sale. Penalties for any violations are the same as with the first bill.

A "mature" ESRB rating means games are not meant for children and should only be played by people older than 17. They may contain greater amounts of violence, blood and gore, sexual content and stronger language.

An "adults only" rating means the video games are for adults because the games contain prolonged scenes of violence and/or sex.