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The Nonsense of the Nanny State

Included in a massive spending signed by President Donald Trump is a provision to raise the age of purchasing tobacco and tobacco products from 18 to 21. There has been a bipartisan push for such restriction and adding such a provision to a must-pass series of bills ensured that such prohibition would be passed. The motive behind such push is to curb tobacco usage among teens and young adults who are susceptible in developing tobacco related diseases and to decrease the possibility of becoming regular smokers. 

Unfortunately, this well-intentioned measure will create a slew of problems similar to those that the War on Drugs has created. It now creates a demographic which will be targeted by law enforcement to uphold this new law and make criminals of people which are voluntarily engaging in behavior that hurts no one but themselves. The proper role of government is to prevent individuals from harming other individuals- it is not to interfere with an individual for that person’s own good. Even if a compelling enough case can be made by legislatures and advocacy groups for such intrusion, the data doesn’t match the hysteria. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published findings that found that from 1976 to 2018, adolescent tobacco usage dropped from 28.8% to 3.6%. This decline can be attributed to research showing the negative effects of tobacco use coupled with anti-tobacco marketing. The issue is in a decline already; however, the government felt compelled to pass such a feel-good law which most likely reverse the current trend.

The government has no problem in restricting actions which adults voluntarily partake in. At the same time, the government equally has no problem in compelling adults to partake in actions they might not agree with such as a military draft. If the government can’t trust an 18 year old with a cigarette, how can that same person be trusted with the defense of the country? Prohibition failed in the past with alcohol and it’s failing with the War on Drugs and will fail with this. 

As aforementioned, the government is not meant to be our nanny. Regardless of how one feels on certain behaviors, one should be free to engage in those behaviors as long as they don’t intrude on other individuals. Government should not be in the business of protecting us from ourselves. This supposed protection being creating restrictive laws that will throw us in jail and cause further ruin more so than the supposed “dangerous” behavior we engaged in. We should not need government to dictate our every behavior. We should be wise in understanding the possible consequences of our actions and behave in a manner that does little damage to ourselves. 

3 thoughts on “The Nonsense of the Nanny State”

  1. Okay, so before I begin I want to say I agree increasing it from 18 to 21 seems silly and is likely stupid to do at this point. Now I have a few questions that you might be able to help me with.

    The primary issue here seems to be that the government is restricting an adult from doing something that doesn’t violate NAP, correct? I hope we can agree that we should have some restrictions in place to protect children. As much as I’d like to believe the parents of said children would do the protecting and guiding that’s simply not always available so some sort of deterrence should be in place, no?

    Furthermore if the question pertains to only adults then the question might be, at what age do you consider a person an adult? 18? 21? 24? Something else? How would we determine the age?

  2. Patrick Glasgow

    Darticus, to your first point yes. The government is saying, you, as an individual who are of a legal consenting age, cannot make a decision about what you put into your own body. The choice affects no one but you as an individual.

    To your second point, we have restrictions in place to protect children, but at the same time the government often oversteps its roll there as well. If they really are children, let them be the responsibility of the parent.

    The age of majority has been in question for centuries. Prior to the 20th Century it was 21, then the voting age was changed to 18. The Federal Age to drink is still 18 (however highway funding was ransomed to ensure states raised the drinking age).

    Right now you can sign a contract to die, take out thousands of dollars in loans and much more at 18. Do I agree with it, not necessarily, but if we make the age of majority 21…that makes parents responsible for actions of children up the age of 21. Its a change that would difficult and would need grandfathered in.

    1. “To your second point, we have restrictions in place to protect children, but at the same time the government often oversteps its roll there as well. If they really are children, let them be the responsibility of the parent.”

      I completely, agree it should fall on the responsibility of the parents. My previous post was more to find out your stance on young people. Unlike most people on the internet, at least seemingly most, I am genuinely curious and not trying to assert my viewpoint over anyone else’s. I’ve just heard from other sources that there should be basically no restrictions for any individual despite age. Do you or libertarians in general think certain restrictions are necessary to protect children? Or should we push to remove all restrictions?

      My current viewpoint is that children/young teens do not have yet have the full capacity to think clearly as the mind is still undergoing active development. Certain executive functions do not develop fully until much later in life. I have to say though my view is nebulous and open to change as I am uncertain A. what age we can agree on to give such individual freedom (my current guess would be between 16 and 18, but it’s just a guess), or B. whether restrictions by the government should be in place at all. Ideally it wouldn’t be necessary and the parents would take that role but we do not live in an ideal world and many children, and teens for that matter, have limited to no guidance. What, if anything, should be done in those situations?

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