A bill titled the “Tobacco-Free Youth Act” is making its way through the United States Senate committees. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) and former vice-presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D) would change the federal smoking age from eighteen to twenty-one.
“We are addressing this public health crisis head-on, by making it more difficult for tobacco products to end up in the hands of middle school and high school students,” McConnell said to a Washington Post reporter. Although this proposal is believed to reduce the use of e-cigarettes in teenagers and young adults, a greater problem underlies this bill.
Virtually all males eighteen years to twenty-five years of age in the United States are required to register for the Selective Service — commonly known as the draft. The draft is the process of conscripting men into military service.
The draft has not been put into effect since the end of the Vietnam War. However, its usage is still a possibility in the future. The military selects men of this age range to serve in the military because they are legal adults and are typically in their physical prime.
The federal drinking and smoking age should not be higher than the federal draft age and voting age. This idea is not new, and the debate has been going on for decades. However, with legislation yet again in the United States Congress to raise the age of another substance’s consumption, the debate is again renewed.
How can citizens be expected to involuntarily be forced to serve in the military, potentially on the front lines at a high risk of injury and death, yet not be able to smoke a cigarette or drink a glass of wine within the purview of the law?
I understand the concern for public health, but it seems like a double-standard to me to have the government restrict our freedom of choice on voluntary substance usage, while mandating that before we can even try those substances that we could be forced to fight and die for our country.
Additionally, once you reach the age of eighteen, you can vote for elected officials, are charged as an adult for crimes, can serve on a jury, and can bind yourself in contracts.
Either raise the draft age to twenty-one to match the drinking age and proposed tobacco-usage age, or keep all age requirements for substances at the age of being a legal adult.
While our leaders preach about equality and small government, they continue to try and pass laws that restrict our life choices.
If people want to choose to smoke or drink alcohol once they are a legal adult, while knowing the potential health effects, so be it. It is their prerogative, not the government’s.
If I can be conscripted into military service, I should at least be allowed to have a drink.