OPINION: Down, not up


Selena Favela


At the ripe age of 18 years old, I voted in the 2012 general election. That same year, I visited cigar shops and hookah bars, but only on a rare occasion. Only a year later, I joined the United States Air Force. I was given the great honor of being able to serve my country the only way I knew how at the time.

I wasn’t able to drink though. In fact, it wasn’t until I turned 21 that I was legally allowed to taste the devil’s elixir. 

It was recently reported that Newton is one of the latest cities to raise the smoking age to 21. While the change hasn’t been made statewide, there are 18 states and over 500 localities that have banned the purchase of nicotine and tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. 

According to KSN, Newton was coincidentally the 500th city to do so.

This now affects about half the population of the United States, according to tobaccofreekids.org. Well, half the population and anyone who shops at Walmart. While these states and businesses think they are serving the public good, I believe they are making the problem even worse.

The fact of the matter is, the criteria that define what makes an adult in the United States are becoming less and less clear.

There have been cases in the U.S. where children as young as 13 have been tried as adults for crimes committed. While most states set the limit at 16, that only bolsters the theory that the guidelines that determine an adult in this country are arbitrary, nonsensical and bone-headed.

If we as “adults” can vote at the age of 18, but can be tried as adults as 16, but can’t even drink or smoke until 21, then what exactly makes us adults?

I propose, then, that we cannot be tried in court as adults until we turn 21. We also shouldn’t be able to vote until then either. If we cannot be trusted with what we put in our bodies, then we obviously have even less bearing about the legal or political systems.

See how ridiculous that looks?

It is highly important for new users of alcohol and tobacco to be familiar with the effects of both. I’ll take it further and say that new users of any mind or body altering substance should be made well aware of the effects before consuming them. When the age to drink is so high, there comes an increase of “pregaming,” or drinking before going to the actual event. 

This means that some minors are getting drunk and then hitting the road, not totally conscious of the total, delayed effects of alcohol. 

It’s not just alcohol. Not long after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, the rate of marijuana-related ER visits rose dramatically. This is not because marijuana is inherently dangerous; it’s almost impossible to overdose by smoking cannabis. It was because new users were not fully aware of the effects it would have on them. How could you, if you’ve never had it before under safe conditions?

Some states are aware of the danger that comes with a lack of education about these substances. Some states allow minors to drink alcohol under their parents’ supervision and consent. Kansas is not one of those states.

While tobacco and nicotine products are not generally good for the human body, it’s hypocritical for politicians to rally behind limited government regulations and then propose further regulations banning the sale of nicotine vape products when the real danger comes from bootleg THC cartridges. Cartridges that have no real regulations because they’re prohibited in this state and many others. 

This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down either. I hope that more presidential candidates are made aware of the real danger posed by increasing the allowable age of alcohol and tobacco purchase. Prohibition is the essence of a too-big, over-regulatory government.

The only solace I currently have is that I am old enough to legally make mistakes.