Minnesota Considering Raising Smoking Age To 21

Big, paternalistic government is always taking another step toward infantilizing Americans. At 18 you’re old enough to fight in wars, enter into legal contracts, be tried as an adult for crimes, and vote for leaders for public office but in Minnesota now some people want to postpone the ability to purchase and use tobacco until age 21.

Notice that this push isn’t coming from private citizens but rather the professional anti-tobacco activists who have found a way to embed themselves in state government (emphasis mine):

Hawaii, New York City and more than 30 municipalities in Massachusetts have raised the legal age for buying tobacco, and the experiment will be closely watched, said Andrea Mowery, vice president of ClearWay Minnesota, a foundation that promotes prevention and cessation of smoking and tobacco use.

ClearWay Minnesota, funded by the state’s share of the 1998 tobacco settlement, will only move ahead with a proposal if a wide consensus of health groups and public health groups agree the approach has merit, Mowery told The Forum editorial board.

“We’re part of a broad coalition,” she said, and listed the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Heart Association as frequent partners. “There’s a very collegial and collaborative process.”

If ClearWay Minnesota were a private group funded by private dollars that would be one thing, but they’re not. They’re funded by the public’s dollars, which makes their advocacy wrong from the get-go.

But beyond that, the idea that adults at age 18 shouldn’t be allowed to make their own choices about tobacco is ridiculous. This isn’t 1952 any more. Americans are inundated with anti-tobacco messaging. There is nobody in this country unaware of the links between tobacco use and things like cancer and heart disease.

At this point, if adults choose to smoke anyway, that’s just a choice they’re making. And if we aren’t allowed to make those choices for ourselves, then we’re not adults under the law.

But the real issue here is enforcement. There is already a major issue with tobacco smuggling thanks to the ridiculously high taxes put on tobacco products. As an example, the State of New York has struggled to control tobacco products with as much as 60% of the cigarettes sold in the state being bootlegged to avoid taxes. Does anyone think that our state and local governments are going to be any more effective at keeping tobacco out of the hands of 18 – 20 year olds?

Hell, they’re not doing a particularly good job of keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors given the number of high schoolers I see lighting up in downtown Minot after school lets out.

The existing age-18 ban is of dubious utility. Does anyone think that raising it to age 21 is going to help? But one thing these policies do accomplish is creating jobs for anti-tobacco zealots.

Maybe that’s the real motivation here.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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