Senate Bill 754 is known as the “Vaping and Tobacco Ban” measure. It increases the minimum age from 18 to 21 years for the legal purchase of tobacco, nicotine and vaping products.
I think the legislature gave its best shot at offering 18 to 21-year old adults an entirely new freedom — "freedom from responsibility."
The nanny-state will squeeze another three years of control over a group which they deem in need of protection. If we read between the lines, the nanny-staters are hoping this “freedom from responsibility" will enable more state intervention for many years to come.
The claim is that this legislation is needed because these adults aren’t capable of making their own choices. Or, maybe, it is needed because evil shop-owners are “in it for the money” and should be fined for burdening future taxpayers with unsustainable healthcare costs.
The latest science purports that those with brains under 21-years old are not running at full capacity. Apparently this immature state of the human brain will be seriously harmed by exposure to nicotine and therefore the state needs to jump in to protect these defenseless creatures.
The questions are, 1) can these adults make decisions for themselves? or, 2) can we relieve them from responsibility and assign blame elsewhere?
Even in this legislation, the only legislated answer takes place in penalizing businesses. The small business will be forced to wear a crown of thorns made up of various fines, penalties, enhanced regulatory efforts and more stringent control over their enterprise for daring to fill a market demand for tobacco products.
The bill imposes a $50 fine on the poor clerk who makes a mistake of selling this new contraband to a minor. Then, there is a simultaneous fine of $250 for the manager on his clerks’s first flub. The manager’s fine goes up to $500 on the next mistaken sale. The clerk will continually get knocked about with the $50 fine for each and every occurrence. Additionally, the store owner, will get a $500 fine for the clerk’s first mistake along with the manager’s $250 fine and then the fine jumps to $1,000 for the owner, while the manager is fined his $500 and the clerk is fined $50 again.
Clearly, shop owners are smart enough to ensure this won’t happen. At least not in any traceable amounts. Why not? because, if caught, the fines are so stiff. Perfect right?
There are somewhere between 16,000 to 18,000 Oregonians that are currently between the ages of 12 and 21 who have self identified as smokers. Two questions, 1) Where are the 12-18 year olds currently getting their illicit smokes? 2) How does raising the legal smoking age to 21 change the reality that 12-18 year olds can currently acquire cigarettes while being “underage”?
We all know the answer. They will simply buy them from their 21 year old contraband dealer rather than their former 18 year old supplier.
I’m all in favor of drawing a line but the line ought to be a red-line and it ought to meet consistency requirements for soliciting universal acceptance of what adulthood means. The people targeted by this legislation can vote, go to war, bear children, abort children and go through sex-change operations all while under the age of twenty-one. I’m not advocating for any of these things but these highlight the inconsistencies that the legislature has created.
Additionally, I would argue that the long-term medical costs and consequences from each of the above named activities is every bit as serious as the long-term cost of care associated with tobacco usage.
It is hard to imagine how Oregon’s youth will ever mature into responsible adulthood when the legislature is continually stripping them of key facets of their autonomy. After all, when does an adult exercise good judgment? Does it really happen the day following their 21st birthday?
I believe the real issue is one of human dignity.
- What does it mean to be free?
- What does it mean to guide one’s own future, to be responsible for one’s own choices and actions?
- Will these new-found criminal offenses make Oregon a healthier, happier, more prosperous place for raising our families?
Every time the nanny-state intrudes into the middle of our families, then our individual liberty and personal responsibility is diminished. The gradual accumulation of small, seemingly insignificant legislated tyrannies will destroy the very foundation upon which our free republic was built.
This is not new. The history of the world is rich with similar circumstances spanning all periods of human history. In fact, here in America John Adams warned the colonialists about the potential danger arising from seemingly legitimate Parliamentary actions. He wrote, "Be not intimidated... nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice."
State Sen. Dennis Linthicum represents District 28, which includes all, or part of Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Deschutes and Crook counties.