Tobacco 21: The War on American Liberty

By Jason Bracewell | United States

It’s no secret that tobacco consumption is linked to cancer and other health issues. The question is, though, does the government have a role to play here? Activists for Tobacco 21 think so. Their goal is simple: to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21. Their movement is picking up steam recently, and six states (California, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Maine) have already raised the purchasing age. 340 plus localities have followed, including New York City and Chicago.

Tobacco 21 is a nonprofit that first started in 1996, and is officially called the “Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation”. They actively push for an age increase to 21 for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The American Heart Association, American Medical Association, and more have all endorsed the group. Despite their fairly long tenure, they’ve only recently begun to break through in their fight against tobacco legalization for the 18-20 age bracket.

In American society, young people begin legal adulthood at age 18, of course. However, politicians have been pushing more age requirements to 21 as time progresses. Alcohol purchases, for example, require individuals to be 21, as do certain firearm purchases. Moreover, the Credit Card Act of 2009 made it increasingly difficult for adults under the age of 21 to obtain credit cards.

Good intentions exist with each of these laws. But in reality, they simply encourage people under these age requirements to seek alternative methods for obtaining the prohibited items. Now, the organization is hoping to send tobacco down the same road.

Tobacco 21 is mostly pushing this agenda in Democratic states and cities but is still gaining ground. This April, the Illinois state legislature passed legislation to raise the tobacco consumption age as well.

Many legislatures are expected to bring similar bills to the table in 2019. This could eventually culminate a federal age increase in the near future.

This may not seem the most pressing issue in America, but it is a part of a much larger problem in
American politics today: the restriction of personal freedom in the name of safety. From gun bans to health regulations, the government is starting to turn Orwellian. This is just one more
battlefield for individual freedom.

As further-left social democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Bernie Sanders gain popularity, Americans are increasingly depending on the state for protection. The DEA, SNAP benefits, and the PATRIOT Act all serve as prime examples. Most politicians, but especially social democrats, would only increase this, especially in the area of social programs.

The concept of tobacco restrictions polls high with voters. In 2016, the Texas Medical Center Health Policy institute conducted a poll of over 5,000 respondents. 80% of them viewed an age raise for tobacco purchases positively.

In this survey, Republicans viewed the ban more favorably than Democrats. However, the age restrictions still had clear bipartisan support. Even 18 to 21-year-olds olds showed a 69% support rate. While troubling, it is no secret that the two parties are more alike than different, further showing a combined effort to stifle individualism.

These numbers show an increase in Americans wishing to legislate their beliefs onto others. Worst of all, it reveals a desire for government to further restrict our natural rights as individuals. These restrictions will not stop at tobacco. As the state expands more, its grip will go beyond trivial consumer issues, eventually infringing on more civil liberties than ever before seen in American history. The time to stop this, though, is now. Tobacco 21 represents a dark step forward and rejecting it may finally set the precedent of liberty.

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