My freshman year in high school was the first year the unofficial smoking area on campus had been officially removed. Yes, I’m old. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I didn’t smoke, so why should teen me care? There were some mild protests from the older (and some younger) students who liked to grab a few puffs before school and during lunch, but they relegated themselves to a nice, secluded area just off campus where nobody could tell them what to do. It was my first experience with righteous tyranny being overlooked because most simply didn’t care.
Underage Americans shouldn’t be allowed to purchase tobacco products. Let me make that perfectly clear. But the notion that an adult who has the right to vote or be sent off to die fighting for our country doesn’t have the right to purchase tobacco products is the nanny state expanding its “righteous” tyranny well beyond the government’s scope. Frankly, it’s lunacy prima facie.
Congress on Thursday voted to raise the national minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, ushering in the sweeping new policy as part of a must-pass government funding package.
The Senate approved the policy within an eight-bill package in the run-up to the holiday recess. The package, which previously won House approval, is part of a series of measures meant to avert a looming government shutdown.
But amid a bitter impeachment fight and other Capitol Hill drama, the bills contained major policy changes, including the minimum age increase for cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
There are many arguments that can and should be made against this draconian federal expansion into delegitimizing our rights as adult Americans. I’m going to focus on the three that pertain to government’s clear overreach as well as their motivations for sneaking this new rule into the spending package. If you think it’s all about keeping young adults healthy, you’re wrong. It’s about control, appeasement, and fulfilling the lobbyists’ wishes.
The weak, the strong, and the secret
Let’s look at three arguments against the new rule. The first one is the weakest, but it shouldn’t be. We’ve now been conditioned into accepting federal primacy over healthcare issues that have always been and should always be derived from mandates by states, not Washington DC. Obamacare did more than upend the healthcare system, send rates to the stratosphere, and set the stage for a complete government takeover of the doctor-patient relationship. It also normalized DC’s role in an industry that has the 10th Amendment written all over it.
The best argument is the obvious one that I already mentioned. Adulthood is deemed to begin at 18-years-old. With it comes new rights and responsibilities. We start paying taxes, moving out of our parents’ homes without interference, and entering establishments we were prohibited from entering before. But the two biggest points of contention are the ones I touched on before. If someone is considered responsible enough to vote in elections, they should be considered responsible enough to make tobacco decisions. If someone can be handed a M4A1 Carbine and ordered to kill an enemy combatant or die by that combatant’s bullet, they should DEFINITELY be allowed to pick up a pack of smokes.
Now, let’s look at the third argument based on a secret. It’s not a big secret as the players are conveniently telegraphing their maneuver, but since few in the media are talking about it, few in the public realize it’s happening. The source of the new rule isn’t a health study by the FDA or chants from anti-smoking activist groups. This rule was born from the machinations of Big Tobacco itself. To be more specific, it’s an action prompted by Altria and Juul. Why would the owners of Marlboro cigarettes and the most popular e-cigarette brand in the nation want to exclude three years of age from their target markets? Because this regulation replaces the recent calls for bans on e-cigarettes or e-cigarette flavors… at least that’s their hope.
This was a trade-off birthed by lobbyists to give politicians the win they needed while preserving their new money train. It was inserted into the gargantuan spending package in the middle of the night while the nation reels from impeachment news to allow Big Tobacco to continue cashing in. I don’t blame them. They’re just trying to do what they think is best for their business and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I do blame the regulators for manufacturing this crisis, the virtue signalers for latching onto it from both sides of the political aisle, and the deal-makers on Capitol Hill for seizing on an opportunity to expand their power.
It’s a shame that so few conservatives and Libertarians are speaking out against this move. We must assume that the appetite to defend smokers’ rights is just too low on the freedom hierarchy. Otherwise, this intrusion on liberty would be all over social media and conservative news outlets.
I don’t like smoking. I also don’t drink alcohol or use marijuana. But I’m a firm believer in keeping government out of our business so I defend the rights of people to do as they choose if it doesn’t harm others. We don’t need the nanny state.
We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.
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