Legislation Would Raise North Dakota’s Tobacco Age to 19, but Exempts Active Military Members


Smoke billows from a cigarette Friday evening at the Parrot's Cay Tavern and Grill in Grand Forks. The smoking ban goes into effect midnight on Saturday. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

Currently North Dakota bans tobacco use for minors (vaping is included as tobacco use, even though it’s a much different thing). “Minors” means anyone under the age of 18.

But legislation introduced by state Rep. Pamela Anderson (D-Fargo) would raise that age to 19, unless you’re an active member of the U.S. military.

You can read the full legislation below, but here’s the pertinent excerpt:

The politics behind the decision to exempt active duty military members from the age hike is pretty clear. In the past when this issue has been debated the counterargument is that if you’re old enough to fight and die for your country you should be old enough to make decisions about tobacco.

The bill authors are trying to neutralize that argument, but in my mind this makes the bill worse. As much as we all respect military members, why should they get special rights under the law?

The point is that people who are 18 years old are adults. The law gives them the ability to make all sorts of decisions for themselves, with military service being just one of them. What this legislation does is tell adults they can’t make a decision about tobacco until they’re 19.

Which is ridiculous.

The tobacco age doesn’t do much to stop teens from using tobacco, or vaping, even today. The kids who want to smoke find a way to do it, and the age prohibition is little deterrent.

Here’s the full legislation:

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