Smoking at 21

I don’t smoke and most people I know who do wish they could quit the habit.

Furthermore, I support government programs that discourage people from smoking. For example, there are a few television commercials that show people with serious medical conditions attributed to a lifetime of smoking that are downright scary.

Seeing firsthand what smoking can cause should discourage anyone from smoking.

Statistics show that these anti-smoking programs have been effective. Smoking by teens has decreased over the past decade. Unfortunately, the popularity of vaping has taken the place of smoking cigarettes for a lot of young people.

Recently, the federal government increased the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21. It used to be 18.

While I applaud the intent of the law, I question its wisdom.

This law tells people under the age of 21 that they do not have the maturity and the wisdom to make good choices.

Okay. If that is the position our government wants to adopt, shouldn’t the same age criteria be used to define the age of reason for other societal functions?

Two big issues come to mind.

An 18-year-old can join the military. Yet, the government does not think people this young can make an informed decision about smoking.

Using the logic to up the smoking age to 21, people between the age of 18 and 21 should not be allowed to vote.

Yet, the government believes the same young people who can’t decide about smoking can help decide on the next President of the United States.

I don’t understand that kind of reasoning.

Will raising the legal age result in less consumption by teens?

Research doesn’t show such a correlation. The Institute of Medicine acknowledged as much in a 2015 report.

The Los Angeles Times, of all papers, recently wrote in opposition to raising the smoking age to 21.

“Lawmakers mistakenly believe they are protecting youths when they restrict them from (and punish them for) behaviors that are perfectly legal for adults. The new smoking-age law would eliminate charges for buying, receiving or possessing tobacco, but young people would still face penalties for giving tobacco to their peers. And surveys show that most underage smokers get their cigarettes from their friends...

“Other countries don’t punish thousands of their teenagers, and it doesn’t seem to cause the bad outcomes that we fear. But U.S. lawmakers just don’t get it.”

Legislating morality and behavior has a long history of failure. Prohibition should serve as a reminder of that painful lesson.

Frankly, I don’t see how the new age limit on smoking will get the outcome it seeks. Teens who want to smoke will be able to do so with little trouble.

If the U.S. truly wants to curb smoking, it should do so by banning smoking on televisions shows and movies, where the main characters frequently puff like fiends.


Steve Robertson is owner and publisher of the Waccamaw Publishers family of community newspapers

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