Tobacco For Eighteen-Year-Olds? What Are Bloomberg’s Priorities?

For the record, I tend to think that a cigarette ban for minors may be appropriate. While I oppose prohibition for adults, I think it makes sense to say that adults shouldn’t be permitted to entice children into certain unhealthy choices. Of course, if such a prohibition is put in place, it needs to be justified by banning a substance that is clearly dangerous, not just “unhealthy” by some statistic that we know doesn’t apply to all people. If the evidence qualifies tobacco as such a substance, then I can see restricting it from children.

But recent news about a new proposal from the New York City Counsel is making me wonder what on earth Mayor Bloomberg could have been thinking when he tried to unilaterally force his soda-size ban on people.

“New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn discussed details of a proposed law that would raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, some of Quinn’s fellow City Council members and health advocates were to join her. Under federal law, no one under 18 can buy tobacco anywhere in the country, but some states and localities have raised it to 19. Texas lawmakers recently tried to increase the minimum age to 21, but the plan stalled. Public health advocates say a higher minimum age discourages, or at least delays, young people from starting smoking and thereby limits their health risks. But opponents of such measures have said 18-year-olds, legally considered adults, should be able to make their own decisions about whether or not to smoke.”

Before I explain why this story disturbs me, let me point out a few things: Notice this comes from the duly elected government of New York City and is not simply an executive order from Mayor Bloomberg. Notice also that this is only a ban for the young. It is not trying to destroy the freedoms of everyone. On the other hand, I have to say I’ve never understood age limitations for adults. If I can vote and kill or die in the military, then I can decide whether or not to smoke or drink. I wish we were more consistent on that point. Also, notice that no one cares about the size of the cigarettes or how many are in a pack. Unlike Bloomberg’s soda limitation, people are treating cigarettes as if they are really unhealthy. The soda ban was just an attempt to micromanage peoples’ lives.

But what I find disturbing about this story is what it reveals about Bloomberg’s concerns about health. Here we have high-school seniors being entice to smoke and he was worried about the size of soda drinks? Does that make any sense at all? It seems like Bloomberg just a guy trying to impress people by supporting the most popular health craze at the moment.

In fact, it gets better: the age restriction on buying tobacco products has come up before, and Bloomberg has threatened to veto it. He says he won’t oppose it this time, but in the past the man who waged war on soft drinks has fought to keep tobacco in the hands of high school seniors.

What a health nut!