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.