Washington State lawmakers have introduced two new bills, both of which aim to raise the legal age to purchase any nicotine products in Washington State to 21.
The age range of 18 to20 is already tough to be in. At that age, people can purchase a home, a vehicle, enlist in the armed forces, get married and vote on how our society should operate. If we were to have a draft, these individuals would be the first selected and shipped off to fight for our country. Their actions are fully theirs and if they violate any laws, they will be tried as adults.
And yet, they are not “real” adults. Our lawmakers have decided that, despite having all of those real world responsibilities and opportunities, people between the ages of 18 and 20 are not responsible or smart enough to be in charge of their own bodies. They aren’t allowed to drink or purchase alcohol. They can’t partake in our state’s legal marijuana.
Now, our lawmakers are wanting to take away another right from these people; the right to purchase and consume nicotine.
I am not an advocate of nicotine consumption. As an ex-smoker of five years, I have a pretty good understanding of how detrimental smoking, or otherwise using nicotine, can be to many aspects of a person’s life. I understand lawmakers’ concerns that people who use nicotine will place a burden on our healthcare system. I understand that most people who start smoking do so before the age of 21. I understand that people at that age are still physically developing. However, saying something causes problems is not an adequate reason to make it illegal.
What I am, and what I believe many Washingtonians are, is an advocate of making my own decisions about what happens with my body. I believe that people who are 18-20 are adults, and that they are responsible and intelligent enough to be able to choose what they want to do with their own bodies.
If lawmakers don’t agree, then they aren’t the people I want making our laws. I believe that they should move the legal age for alcohol and marijuana down to 18 and reject these new bills. Or, if the health and insurance implications are too high, if these 18 to 20 year old’s really aren’t responsible enough to make good choices with their bodies, then maybe they aren’t responsible enough to make good choices with their credit, with their commitments or with our laws. Maybe we should raise the legal age of adulthood to 21. Let the legal definition of adult mean that all adults are on equal ground.
Let’s not encourage prohibition in any form. Let’s not treat our newest members of adulthood like children. Let’s reject these bills and let our youngest adults be responsible for their own bodies.