With the passage of a new law, New Jersey joins a couple of other states (Hawaii and California) and districts in raising the smoking age (http://fox8.com/2017/07/22/new-jersey-raises-smoking-age-to-21/). This despite the fact that cited studies on the matter are mostly speculative, and that such a change is nothing less than a paternalist encroachment on individual liberty…particularly focused on what people decide to put in their own bodies.

The article above cites a 2015 National Institute of Medicine study that mentions alleged lives that would be saved by the law change (http://tobacco21.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Public-Health-Implications-of-Raising-the-Minimum-Age-of-Legal-Access-to-Tobacco-Products-Institute-of-Medicine.pdf)…but that is all that such statistics are, merely alleged. The study itself flatly admits that there is no baseline data that exists regarding the law changes (given the fact that the laws have been changed only recently in those few states and districts), and that other factors could be responsible for the decline in jurisdictions it considers…such as Needham, Massachusetts. Instead, it relies on models to try to anticipate teenagers getting cigarettes from retailers and older friends and family in a world with a nationwide smoking age of 21, and then tries to extend the rates of smoking and smoking related diseases out to the year 2100. Not only is such a thing obviously speculative, it also ignores the realities of the mechanics which take root in a prohibitionist marketplace. The change is also just as likely to provide the impetus for a black market to offer those who are underage the ability to garner cigarettes themselves. Alcohol laws concerning age could potentially offer a window into how such a thing could work out. Issues concerning binge drinking, fake IDs, and safety concerns have caused some campuses to begin reconsidering how age laws stand on the issue (https://fee.org/articles/lower-the-drinking-age/). Such a thing shouldn’t be a surprise considering how historical insight from previous attempts at prohibition, and how the current War on Drugs, have worked out concerning public safety concerns. An analysis conducted by the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study in 2015 found that teenage smoking rates have fallen across the United States independently of whether jurisdictions raise their smoking age (http://monitoringthefuture.org/pressreleases/15Ecigtbl.pdf).

In the end, such a change doesn’t match up on closer scrutiny. Instead, what this drive plays into is merely rescinding the rights of perfectly capable adults according to speculative theories…the calling card of a nanny state. In all the supposed concern that the adults in question get “better maturity and understanding” of the situation, there appeared to be none extended to the worry of whether they could attain those qualities toward taking out student loans, joining the military, getting married, casting a vote in an election, driving a car, etc. After all, those are all things that 18 year olds are able to do. If they are able to do those activities and face the consequences, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to enjoy a cigar and a beer too. Being able to make choices…even if they may be unwise…is part of what being an adult is, otherwise what is the significance of having an “age of majority” distinction at all? Adults of all ages should be able to enjoy their lives in peace without the state putting up needless roadblocks like this.

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