This argument against Tobacco 21 should go up in smoke
There is so much back and forth over whether or not the smoking age should be raised to 21, as city councils in Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Perham contemplate the move. There are some legitimate arguments on both sides, but it does get a little tiring to hear people argue that, "If you can join the military, go off to war and give your life for this country at 18 years old, then you should have the right to smoke at 18." Um, what? Those two concepts have nothing to do with each other. Nothing.
Becoming a member of the armed services is an honor. Smoking is less than. This is not to judge those who do smoke—not even a little bit—but the fact is, most smokers wish they'd never started and would quit in a heartbeat if it weren't so insanely hard. Smoking isn't something you do with distinction and pride, like is the case with being a soldier, airman, sailor or marine. It's smoking ... you just do it, and it certainly isn't a positive bonus in life for young military members who do serve.
If the military was so concerned about protecting this right for their youngest recruits, (which, by the way, only makes up 1 percent of 18 year olds) it certainly wouldn't have taken away their right to smoke during basic training with the idea that if recruits can go without smoking for 6 to 12 weeks, then maybe they won't start again. The military views its members as "government property" that is required to meet certain physical fitness standards, and although smoking is certainly a right for those in the military, it's not like it's encouraged.
Perhaps one might think I'm missing the point—that if people are adult enough to make the decision to do something as significantly important as joining the military, then they should be adult enough to decide for themselves whether or not they want to smoke. This point is very much taken, but the fact is, it's an old, warn out, irrelevant argument.
You don't like the government taking away one more right? Fine, say that. That's a legitimate argument. You don't like the fact that it includes vaping and believe a safer alternative is being stifled? Ok, say that, but let's do this: Let's go old school. Let's take those two legitimate arguments and start a list of why it's a bad idea to change law. (#1) I'm sick of the government telling me what to do. (#2) Vaping is known to help smokers quit.
But then let's start making a list of why it's probably a good idea to change it. (#1) Smoking-related illnesses kill a half a million Americans every year and another 54,000 with second-hand smoke. (#2) It is a big contributor to the ridiculously high cost of health care. (#3) It's widely known that very few people start smoking after 21 years, most presumably because their brains have had a few more years to develop and their decision-making skills have improved. (#4) Studies have shown that in the communities where the law was changed to 21, the number people starting to smoke really did decrease.
Look, nobody believes this is the cure and no black markets will be formed and all teenagers will abide by the law, but if it prevents some from starting, then it's worth it.
For the record, it might also be wise to change the voting age to 21 as well, but we'll save that for another day.