Authored by Laurence Vance via The Future of Freedom Foundation,
The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required a health warning to be placed on packs of cigarettes sold in the United States. The original warning, which appeared on cigarette packs from January 1, 1966, through October 31, 1970, was
Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous To Your Health
There are more dangerous things that Americans should be on the lookout for.
Just before Christmas, Donald Trump signed two bills into law to fund all the departments and agencies of the federal government and avert a government shutdown. According to the White House, the bills are:
H.R. 1158, the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020,” which provides full-year funding through September 30, 2020, for projects and activities of certain agencies of the Federal Government; and
H.R. 1865, the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020,” which provides full-year funding through September 30, 2020, for projects and activities of the remaining agencies of the Federal Government.
The bills do some other things as well.
They expand paid family leave. Said President Trump, “I am proud to report after that, after decades of empty promises and inaction, the legislation I have signed into law provides 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. This ensures parents are not forced to choose between their jobs and spending precious time with their children.”
They give U.S. military personnel and most federal workers a 3.1 percent pay raise. Said President Trump, to federal workers, “This pay raise reflects the excellent work of our federal workforce.” And to service members, “Your selfless service, noble sacrifice, and unfailing allegiance to duty and country is what keeps America safe, strong, proud, and free.”
They repeal three taxes in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): the so-called “Cadillac tax” on generous employer health plans, taxes on health insurance companies, and taxes on medical-device makers.
They reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
And they raise the federal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old. Specifically, in the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020,” under Division N, “Health and Human Services Extenders,” in Title I, “Health and Human Service Extenders,” Subtitle F, “Miscellaneous Provisions,” Sec. 603, “Minimum age of sale of tobacco products,” it states,
(a) In General. — Section 906(d) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 387f(d)) is amended —
(1) in paragraph (3)(A)(ii), by striking “18 years’” and inserting “21 years”; and
(2) by adding at the end the following:
“(5) Minimum age of sale. — It shall be unlawful for any retailer to sell a tobacco product to any person younger than 21 years of age.”
This is something that has been in the works all year.
Back in May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced a bill, the “Tobacco-Free Youth Act” (S.1541), to raise the federal minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21. “We’re in the middle of a national health epidemic,” said McConnell in a speech on the Senate floor. Kaine said in a statement, “Today, we are coming together to side with young people’s health. With this bipartisan legislation, Senator McConnell and I are working to address one of the most significant public-health issues facing our nation today.” American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said she supports the bill, saying in a statement, “We commend Majority Leader McConnell and Senator Kaine for prioritizing the health of teens and young adults with a bill to raise the national sales age for tobacco products to 21. We urge strong bipartisan support for this bill as written, and we call on lawmakers to reject any effort to add language that would weaken its impact or benefit tobacco companies.”
At the same time, but in the House, Rep. Donna E. Shalala (D-Fla.), sometime secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton, and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), current Energy and Commerce Chairman, introduced a similar bill, the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 (H.R.2339). “We’re trying to protect children,” said Shalala in an interview with CQ Magazine.
With the passage of the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020,” those bills are now irrelevant.
Anyone with half a brain in the United States knows that smoking cigarettes is dangerous, destructive, and deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
- Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
- Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined: HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, firearm-related incidents.
- More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking as have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
- Cigarette smoking increases the risk for death from all causes in men and women.
But none of that means that the federal government should raise the federal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Consider the following:
First of all, the Constitution. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the federal government to set a minimum age for anyone to purchase tobacco products. And not only that, neither does the Constitution authorize the federal government to have anything to do with smoking tobacco or anything else. Tobacco was a plentiful commodity at the time the Constitution was written. If the Framers wanted to mention tobacco in the Constitution, they certainly could have done so.
Second, unnecessary legislation. Sixteen states, the District of Columbia, and more than 500 localities have already raised their minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21. These states are: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. The minimum age increases to 21 next year in Pennsylvania and Washington, and in Utah in 2021. Some other states have a legal age between 18 and 21. The new federal tobacco legislation is an assault on federalism and the Tenth Amendment.
Third, the proper role of government. Is it the proper role of government to keep the peace and punish those who violate the personal or property rights of others, or is it the proper role of government to be a nanny state that micromanages the behavior of its citizens? The federal government not only shouldn’t have a minimum age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, it shouldn’t even have a minimum age of 18.
Fourth, consistency. There are many dangerous activities that Americans engage in every day. And sometimes they lead to serious injury or death. Here are ten of them:
- Bungee jumping
- Operating a chainsaw
- Climbing a ladder
- Riding a motorcycle
- Working as a roofer, fisherman, logger, or miner
- Taking prescription drugs
- Driving a car
- Taking a bath
- Crossing the street
If the government is going to have a minimum age for tobacco purchases to “protect children,” then why not a minimum age to engage in those other dangerous activities to protect even more children? And why not a maximum age to protect the elderly?
Fifth, second-class citizens. At the age of 18, Americans have the legal right to marry, enter into contracts, adopt children, vote in elections, and join the military and possibly die for their country. Yet, with this new tobacco legislation, the federal government is instituting a second class of citizens who can do all of those things but not buy a pack of cigarettes.
And sixth, the nature of government. Government has always been the greatest violator of personal freedom and property rights. As former Foundation for Economic Education president Richard Ebeling put it, “There has been no greater threat to life, liberty, and property throughout the ages than government. Even the most violent and brutal private individuals have been able to inflict only a mere fraction of the harm and destruction that have been caused by the use of power by political authorities.”
Regardless of how dangerous, destructive, or deadly the use of tobacco might be, the government hazard to the individual liberty and personal freedom of Americans is infinitely more dangerous, destructive, and deadly.