By MARK GRAY
Unlike other common Utah “sins”, smoking is not a moral issue. It’s a health issue. While another vice, alcohol, is scientifically seen to be beneficial when used in moderation, there is no healthy excuse for using alcohol. The only nod to tobacco is that in some youthful minds smoking is “cool” and “adventurous”. It doesn’t occur to them that it is also addictive and deadly.
That’s not to say we should ban the use of it. We must give accountability its due. But by raising the age from 19-21 years of age, we would simply be sending a message that the decision to smoke should be left to more mature minds, not those only one year removed from sweating over the choice of a prom date.
I acknowledge that raising the age would not stop teenage smoking; it might not even put much of a dent in it. A 19-year old, just like a 17-year old, will find a Marlboro if he or she wants it. I also feel a little hesitant about a local church prohibition being woven more deeply into secular law.
But in the end, the harm that comes from tobacco frees me from worrying about government intrusion. Raising the age for tobacco use would be a message bill.
But it does send a correct message, and if it stops one stupid teenager in 20 from lighting up, it will be worth it.
By DAWN BRANDVOLD-GRAY
I have never been a smoker and find the habit stinky, expensive, and unhealthy. I feel for those addicted to nicotine and applaud their efforts to quit. However, the state legislature’s proposal to raise the smoking age to 21 is not sensible and considering other factors, is not fair.
At 18, we deem someone old enough to make decisions in the voting booth. We will send them off to defend our country in war. And if they break a law, we will hustle them into court to face the full punishment for the crime. Yet, these same 18-year olds are not qualified to make personal decisions about tobacco?
There is the argument that the human brain isn’t fully developed before age 21, yet when a 15-year old commits a heinous crime, there are those who shout “try him as an adult”.
Where is the argument about cognitive development in those cases? We can’t have it both ways. We cannot treat young people like adults, but take away freedom of choice.
Childhood obesity rates are up. Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S.; yet if someone tried to ban the sale of french fries and sugary sodas to those under 18, there would be a hue and cry throughout the land. Just ask Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, what happened when they banned super-sized soft drinks in the Big Apple.
If we were really concerned about healthy choices, we would make customers show ID to purchase Big Macs and remove the “extra butter” machines from theater concession stands.
No doubt about it. Tobacco is bad. It is unhealthy. But instead of spending money trying to enforce a lower age, let’s put the money into more anti-smoking education. That makes more sense to me.