Alcohol vs. Tobacco: Pick your poison


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I never really thought much about the drinking age until the past few days. The idea of there even being a legal drinking age can easily slip your mind if you ever walked down Richard Avenue on a Friday night.

This week’s topic of alcohol got me thinking. Why is it that an 18-year-old adult can buy a pack of cigarettes, but not a bottle of alcohol?

Both are drugs that harm the body. Why is one more available than the other? I have a theory that since cigarettes are far more addicting than alcohol, the government makes them available to a wider audience just to bring in more money.

Addicts are the best customers ever, they will always pay for what they want. Of course I know that alcohol is also addictive and taxed, which brings money in as well.

Turbotax reports though that in 2009 our government brought in $5 billion from tax on alcohol and a whopping $15 billion in cigarette tax, which says a lot. Some may still argue that the two are equally addicting, but scientific evidence proves that nicotine is more addictive than alcohol.

According to Dr. Michael M. Miller, an addiction medicine specialist, about 45 percent of regular cigarette smokers get addicted, while around 15 percent of regular alcohol drinkers develop an addiction. By developing an addiction, I mean building a tolerance, having a dependence, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

The New York Times even revealed through research in pharmacology, psychology, physiology and neurobiology that a nicotine addiction is just as strong and hard to break as a heroin or cocaine addiction.

In my opinion, between cigarettes and alcohol, alcohol is the lesser of the two evils.

Alcohol consumption holds responsibility for roughly 2.5 million deaths a year while cigarettes cause about 6 million deaths per year, including nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke regularly. If an 18-year-old has legal access to cigarettes, I believe they should to alcohol as well.

Illegal or not, people under 21 still drink anyway.

Making something illegal does not make it stop. The only upper hand tobacco has on alcohol is it does not impair one’s mental state, and in particular, driving ability.

I feel that reason alone should not raise the drinking age. Cell phone use and prescription drugs can also impair driving which are available to those under 21. People under 21 are still driving drunk anyway. Driving under the influence is something that will never go away.

I am just saying that if I can kill myself buying pack after pack of cigarettes, I should also be able to crack open a beer.

I believe that either the drinking age should either be lowered to 18, or the smoking age should be raised to 21. The fact that both of these harmful substances are not accessible to every legal adult boggles my mind. To me, it all seems like a way for the government to get more money from addicts as young as possible.

Whether I am correct on that or not, I still believe both tobacco products and alcohol should be available at one set age. The fact that a legal age gap exists between the two seems illogical and unjust to me.

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