Senator Jennie M. Forehand (D-District 17) is retiring this year and her new bill is evidence she wants to end her tenure with a bang. Sen. Forehand is introducing a bill that would further restrict young adults in Maryland from purchasing cigarettes by three years – raising Maryland’s legal smoking age to 21.
Advocates for this bill are likely to argue the severe health detriments caused from first and second-hand smoke warrants such a law:
- Pinpointing cigarette smoking as the leading preventable cause of death in the United States
- Highlighting the surgeon general’s report, which states 90% of adults who smoke daily started before age 21
- Recognizing 7,000 Marylanders die of tobacco-related diseases, including cancer, heart attacks and emphysema each year
I am not disputing the hazards of smoking – rather, I want to scrutinize this bill as it relates to what it means to be an adult in the United States. The age at which one becomes a legal adult in the United States – and largely throughout the world – is 18. At age 18, men and women in the United States are able to legally:
- participate in contracts
- give sexual consent
- join the military
According to Wikipedia, “… a legal adult is a person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.”
My question is this – if we, as a governing body, proclaim 18 year olds responsible enough to … work, vote, have sex and join the military … why are we considering a law that undermines individuals’ right to make responsible decisions?
I would argue that if women and men turning 18 are expected to contribute to society, either by advancing their education or entering the work force, and are encouraged to participate in our nation’s democratic election process, as well as legally-permitted to have consensual sex, and most significantly, join the military – potentially putting their life on the line – they should be legally allowed to make decisions for their own well-being, including whether or not to smoke or not.
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