The rationale, they said, was for health benefits.
Raising the legal smoking age to the legal drinking age would make it more difficult for teens to access tobacco products and ultimately lead to lower smoking rates down the road for adults. That’s the idea, anyway.
While the premise of this idea may sound good at first blush, if one looks deeper, it’s clear why this may not be such a great idea.
In the U.S., we allow 18-year-olds to vote and enlist in the armed forces. For many 18-year-olds, once they graduate high school, they leave home and strike out into their new “adult” lives.
We entrust these young adults to make life-altering choices. They vote for our leaders and decide the direction of our communities. They decide whether or not to defend our country. They make the tough call of continuing their education or going out into the workforce. They can get loans, buy cars, purchase a home and start families.
Why, then, would lawmakers decide to take the choice away from people on whether or not they want to smoke cigarettes?
We’re all well aware of the negative health consequences of smoking. But the government should not be able to regulate the adult choice to smoke tobacco.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of other issues, such as the notion that a higher drinking age leads to a lower drinking rate, and therefore a higher smoking age will lead to lower smoking rates for adults. Despite the drinking age being 21, many teens find ways to get their hands on alcohol well prior to the legal drinking age.
It’s likely the biggest effect of increasing the tobacco age would be more law-breaking as those in their late teens attempt to circumvent the system and find a way to smoke.
While we applaud efforts to encourage healthier choices among our youth, this idea is best left in the ashtray.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.