According to the Associated Press, the big government western states of Colorado and Utah – both among the nation’s lowest in smoking rates – are considering legislation that would hike the legal smoking age up to 21.
In the absence of evidence, proponents of the age hike argue that a smoker’s initial addiction to tobacco typically happens as teenagers, and thus, raising the smoking age to 21 would put another three years of distance between them and an addiction to tobacco.
Embracing the idea that government knows best, Colorado Republican Cheri Gerou believes that the new law would make it tougher for teenagers to get their hands on cigarettes – ignoring completely the ability for these same teenagers to obtain drugs, already illegal for most of the population outside of medicinal purposes.
“What I’m hoping to do is make it harder for kids to obtain cigarettes,” she said.
The numbers, however, fail to provide any evidence to support this assumption. The CDC’s own numbers clearly indicate that tobacco use is already quite high among our nation’s youth. Nearly 30% of high school students use tobacco products. Close to 20% smoke cigarettes. Worse, 9 out of 10 smokers began smoking before the age of 21.
Why, then, would increasing the smoking age to 21 prevent tobacco use when virtually every middle-school aged child in America already has access to tobacco? It is not the government’s job to ignore facts and install bigger and more intrusive government.
The law has several more votes to go, but both Colorado and Utah are farther down the road than any other state in an attempt to further restrict the natural freedoms of its people to use tobacco.