Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Nanny State Butts In Again

Let me start out by saying that I simply can't stand smoking. I'm pretty allergic to the stuff, and I can smell it from a mile away. When I had a weekly gig a few summers ago at a smoky bar, it almost did me in. I'd be happy if nobody ever smoked again.

But all that being said, i still don't like this particular proposed piece of government intervention: A Texas Senate committee has approved a bill that would raise the smoking age from 18 to 19:
Though they are legally considered adults and can serve in the military, 18-year-old Texans would be considered minors when it comes to smoking under a bill passed unanimously through a Senate committee Tuesday.
The measure would increase the legal age for buying tobacco products to 19, and would cut off an estimated $12.5 million in tax revenue for the state over the next two years.

Supporters say raising the legal age will prevent teens from smoking an extra year and keep cigarettes out of high schools, where they can be passed along to younger students.
As often happens with things like this, the bill's sponsor is coming from a good place; I'm sure that many people would prefer that high school students not smoke. (The same thing happened with the drinking age a number of years ago--it was raised from 18 to 19 until the federal government twisted every state's arm out of the socket by threatening to withhold highway funding until it was raised to its current age of 21.)

But the problem here is the exact same one that we talked about last summer, when the Amethyst Initiative was being introduced: Actions like this continue to blur the definition of adulthood. If the smoking age is raised, that means that adutl privileges would go like this: voting, military service and lottery tickets at 18, smoking at 19 and drinking at 21; why not be consistent? As I said in that earlier post, it would be better for all concerned to have a single age of majority, rather than the "graduated steps to adulthood" that will be even more in place if this bill were to pass. I would prefer a consistent age of majority at 18, because going in the complete opposite direction would mean that nearly every college student would be a minor, and I don't think that the colleges are prepared to take on the role of in loco parentis any more than they already do.

A commenter to the Chronicle story has a good idea:
he government has no right to restrict things if you are of legal adult age. If they are worried about younger teens gettign access, then make the punishment for posession of said things more severe.
I couldn't agree more.

What say you? Chime in below with your comments.

And here's where I might look like a hypocrite: I may not be a fan of the law proposed above, but I have no problem with the dramatic increase in federal cigarette taxes that went into effect yesterday. The main difference for me is that, while the tax is likely to be a burden for some smokers, it doesn't actually outlaw the practice for a certain portion of the population. If it nudges someone who might have been on the verge of quitting over the edge, that's all well and good, but at least that person still has a choice in the matter.

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