Witt: Raising the smoking age to 21 isn’t the best solution
Apparently, the U.S. Congress introduced legislation to increase the smoking age to 21. This may be due, in part, to the increasing number of episodes of illness — and occasional death — related to vaping (an assumed safer alternative to smoking) and the increasing number of youth who are partaking of the practice at younger and younger ages.
In the first place, this legislation was tacked on to the latest spending proposal which includes a large pot of largesse for Senator Mitch McConnell, who was pushing for the higher legal age for purchasing tobacco products. He also gets $6 billion to support the coal miners’ pension fund and $410 million for a new veterans hospital in Louisville. Of course these projects just happen to come to fruition in the year that the senator is facing reelection.
There are approximately 400 bills languishing in the Senate, which have been passed bi-laterally in the House. But the majority leader has virtually total control over what comes to the floor of the Senate and he apparently sees no urgency in dealing with these 400 other bills when he can make himself look good in the eyes of his constituents by channeling money into state projects.
The question remains: why should legislation raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products be buried in legislation dealing with spending?
But back to the issue of increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products.
Do our Congressional representatives think raising the legal age to smoke is going to curtail this pernicious habit, or are they catering to the clamor to do something about the rising death toll and debilitating illnesses associated with smoking and vaping and trying to make the American public believe they care about this issue?
Maybe raising the age limit would mitigate the problem. Only time will tell. With the current age limit set at 18, it has done little to stop smoking amongst the younger generation which seems able to acquire cigarettes easily enough.
Earlier legislation requiring cigarette manufacturers to post warnings on each pack of cigarettes also did little to reduce the problem. And the absolutely ludicrous price of cigarettes these days, mostly fueled by higher state taxes doesn’t seem to be having much effect either.
The American society — and the American government — needs to make up its collective mind about just when a person has reached an age mature enough to make his or her own decisions.
People can legally wed at age 18. They can legally drive at 18. They can vote at 18 (after the 26th amendment was ratified in 1971), and they can be sent off to die in wars at 18.
Of course, most states require one to be 21 to purchase alcohol, which creates the irony of expecting someone to die for their country at 18, but not allowed to buy a beer.
At several points in this nation’s history, it was decided the age of 18 was sufficient to label a person as an adult. Adults should be able to make about their lives.
It is time for society and government to quit trying to control every aspect of our lives.
They may make stupid choices — like smoking and vaping. But if the goal is to curtail these practices, then make the products illegal, like in prohibition, but quit nipping around the edges of the problem and pretending a solution has been found.
History tells us how successful that idea was.
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.