Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Young Marines can't smoke in Hawaii...

Well, look at this!  Yesterday, I had nothing on my mind.  Today, I feel compelled to write a second blog post.  The Internet has me all fired up today, all because of what I read last night. reports that as of January 1, 2016, the state of Hawaii will have a new law in effect.  The smoking age will be raised to 21.  That means that people under age 21 will not be legally allowed to purchase, possess, or consume tobacco products.

As someone with an advanced degree in public health, I can see why this law was passed.  I won't be surprised if more states eventually pass it.  We Americans like our nanny laws, right?  Research shows that people who choose to smoke usually do so when they are young.  Raising the smoking age is the government's attempt to protect young people from themselves and prevent them from picking up a nasty habit that will result in higher healthcare costs, not to mention air pollution and litter.  Sounds good, right?

Well, I might agree that the law isn't a "bad" idea in terms of public health policy.  However, the article I read was about Marines being compelled to abide by the law.  Before anyone points out the obvious, of course I understand that Marines and other servicemembers must abide by local laws.  My issue is that Marines and other servicemembers are legal adults involved in a profession that could easily get them killed.  They are old enough to marry, to vote, and to sign the dotted line.  If they want to smoke a cigarette or have a beer, who are politicians to tell them they can't?

I am not a big fan of the two tiered "adult" system we have in place in the USA.  A teenager who commits murder can be tried and convicted as an adult, even if he or she is under age 18.  A teenager can legally marry or join the military with parental consent.  At age 18, he or she is considered an adult and can legally do a lot of things.  But we ban alcoholic beverages for that age group and Hawaii is now leading the initiative to ban smoking, too.

Look, I am well aware of the societal and physical ills brought on by smoking and drinking alcohol.  However, I also think nannyism is wrong.  It shouldn't be up to the government to protect legal adults from themselves.  Besides, while the law may make it more difficult for minors to legally buy forbidden substances, they can still get their hands on them if they are determined.  And do we really want servicemembers having nic fits while handling weapons?    

Personally, I think a better idea is to raise the driving age.  Driving is inherently dangerous and requires maturity and good judgment.  Here in Germany, one must be eighteen to drive and those who aren't affiliated with the US government somehow must go through very extensive training and testing to get licensed.  The process is expensive and there is a great public transportation system here.  For that reason, fewer young people drive.  But they can enjoy their cigarettes and alcohol at age sixteen.  And if, for any reason, they do choose to drink alcohol and drive a car and they get caught or have an accident, the penalties are very severe.  The legal limit for drunkenness is significantly lower here, too.

I think the people of the United States ought to decide once and for all an age at which someone is considered an adult.  If it's 18, then let 18 year olds make their own decisions.  If it's 21, then allow people under age 21 to enjoy the same protections afforded to children.  Enough of this ninnyism regarding when someone is old enough to make life altering decisions.  Shit or get off the pot already.


  1. I couldn't agree more strongly with every single point you've raised in this post than I do. I think driving is allowed too early here. I think the two-tied adult system is ludicrous. The idea that a person could be deployed into a combat situation yet not even be allowed to have a cigarette if he or she wants is outrageous. I'm about as anti-smoking as a person can be, but it the decision to smoke or not to smoke is a personal choice. and i hate the nanny state concept. and if a person is to have the responsibilities of being a legal adult, he or she should be afforded the rights that accompany it. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't feel this way. Yes, smoking is bad for one's health, but so are many other things. What's next - a ban on sugar?

    1. I bet it's coming.

      One point that was brought up in my MPH program is that smoking helps keep the population from aging too much. If everybody lives to their 90s or 100s, we will have a real crisis. People have to die to make room for other generations.

      It sounds kind of sick, especially when you consider it was a public health program (albeit in administration). Of course, I had a great aunt who smoked like a chimney and lived to be about 90. Her non smoking older sister (my granny) was almost 101 when she died. And boy, was she ready to go. All of her friends and siblings, her husband, and a couple of her children preceded her in death.

      Anyway, I don't like smoking. I agree that it's dirty, stinky, messy, unhealthy, and expensive. But if you're going to ask someone to go into battle, you should allow them the choice to engage in whatever habits they want.


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