Anti-Smoking Paternalism Infantilizes Adults: New at Reason

It's not just colleges treating adults like children.

A. Barton Hinkle writes:

State and local governments are, too. The latest example is the District of Columbia, which is about to raise the smoking age to 21. In doing so it will join California, Hawaii and more than 100 cities, including New York, Chicago and Cleveland.

At least those measures try to protect young people from something actually harmful—unlike the speech codes, trigger warnings and safe spaces that colleges use to protect students from ideas that might hurt their feelings. But both sorts of measures apply to people who are, legally, adults. They can vote, join the military, own firearms, even hold public office. But in large parts of the nation they can't hold a cigarette.

Many of those places also happen to be heavily Democratic, and their increasingly Puritanical approach to the Devil's weed sits in uncomfortable tension with the orthodox liberal position on other questions of personal autonomy, such as sexuality and abortion. In California, D.C., and other progressive realms, it is deemed holy writ that a woman has a right to control her own body – unless she wants to smoke. (Or at least if she wants to smoke tobacco. California and the District have legalized recreational marijuana.)

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