It was not long ago that the world saw the first moments of the new Roaring ‘20s, and much like the romanticized decade of the 20th Century, the U.S. has again gone headfirst into a new prohibition.
As last year ended, President Donald Trump signed a “minibus” bill, a spending bill that packaged together different appropriations bills. This ultimately worked to raise the legal age to purchase and smoke tobacco and electronic vaporizer products to 21. The bill also implemented a temporary legal restriction on the production and sale of flavored e-cigarette pods, with the exception of menthol and tobacco pods.
While the long-term effects of this are still inconclusive, the reasoning behind the law proves the federal government is acting too much as a parent to the American public. Furthermore, the focus on restricting tobacco and vapes advertises the government’s grossly misconstrued priorities of what to protect the American public from.
The ban also highlights inconsistencies within the American legal system on what defines an adult. Finally, like most historical bans on anything, it can be predicted that this ban will backfire.
Foremost, the bill banning tobacco and e-cigarettes signed by Trump and written by 10 Democratic Congress members, was created with the goal of preventing underage addiction, particularly in high school students. This is not the role of the federal government. Even when the nation accepted new laws that an American needed to be 21 years old to buy alcohol, it was adopted through the laws of the states, allowing for local governments to add additional restrictions.
In the case of alcohol consumption laws, it was understood that the federal government should not be so directly involved with the personal lives of the American public. If the federal government can start restricting something that it deems immoral, there is nothing stopping the federal government from altering the moral standard every presidential administration and banning something else it considers a vice.
Such a ban clearly shows that the federal government has terrible priorities of what it should be protecting young Americans from, if a government should be in that business at all. Roughly 5 million American teenagers use restricted tobacco products, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
However, roughly the same number of American adolescents suffer from childhood obesity, according to a U.S. News study. The difference between smoking and childhood obesity is that smoking has been a decreasing trend due to more medical research creating a stigma against the habit. Obesity, however, is a growing epidemic despite just as much evidence showing that it is an unhealthy lifestyle.
Furthermore, a study by the Barna Group found that roughly 68% of adolescents seek out pornography every day, which has severe consequences on the neuroplasticity of the developing mind. This epidemic is severely under-discussed, overshadowed by the vape debate.
This law also adds to serious confusion in the U.S. on when a minor becomes an adult. Right now, one needs to be 17 to start training in the U.S. military and see an R-rated movie. At the age of 18, you can be shipped off to war, can consent to sex and can legally be fully exposed on camera. But to buy tobacco, alcohol and legally gamble, you need to be 21.
Now more than ever, the American public craves for consistency in legal age laws. Many Americans today have friends in the military who can be trusted by the government to get blasted by Iranian rockets but are forbidden by Uncle Sam to crack a cold beer; they are allowed to gamble with their lives, but not their paycheck.
Finally, this law, like so many other restrictions before it, will likely backfire. Sure, stores may stop selling tobacco and e-cigarettes directly to young people, but has that ever stopped banned materials from getting into the hands of those restricted?
A brief interview with the University police will show you the prevalence of hard drugs and marijuana, though there is restrictive laws against them. There will most likely also be an entire black market of tobacco and e-cigarette products catering to younger Greek life members in the fraternity and sorority houses.
Furthermore, the future of LSU sponsored events will reach a fork in the road by the next football season. If the police are going to start carding everyone with a can of dipping tobacco or pack of cigarettes, the University will be stunned by the massive decrease in student attendance. The alternative would be that the University simply doesn’t enforce a federal law signed by a President who has attended two Tiger football games.
Ultimately, these new laws are ridiculous. They were signed into place by members of the baby boomer generation who are quick to regulate the lives of the new generation, but forgot they had the freedom to drink at the age of 18. I am no smoker, but I will take cancer and freedom over a long life of government regulation.
Brett Landry is a 21-year-old political communication major from Bayou Petit Caillou,