By Al Jacobs
The reformers are hard at work. One of the measures just approved by the California State Senate will raise the age for buying tobacco products to 21. There’s no denying that tobacco is a harmful substance, and it’s equally true that as persons age they’re less likely to begin the smoking habit. If these were the only factors, the rule might make sense, but as with most well-meaning but overbearing edicts, human nature is ignored.
Why a 16-year-old smokes can mostly be explained in sociological terms. As a two-pack-a-day teenage smoker, I still recall the need that my cigarette filled. It provided me with the confidence, sophistication and maturity that I otherwise lacked. It never concerned me that every package I purchased was in violation of some law. Likewise, no amount of lecturing or horror stories would have caused me to swear off. Only when my psyche no longer needed what my smokes provided, would I end the habit. Luckily, that time arrived. With a bit of revelation I came to terms with reality shortly after turning nineteen. I needed neither counseling nor a phasing out period. I quit cold turkey.
When it comes to abiding by oppressive regulations, I doubt young people today are much different than we were. Most certainly, increasing the age at which cigarettes may be purchased from 18 to 21 will not induce a 20-year-old addict to stop smoking. What it more likely will do is simply reinforce the anti-law-abiding attitude that more and more afflicts our society. It has been said, and rightly so, that the enactment of unenforceable laws do little more than increase the number of lawbreakers.
A final thought: I don’t fault our state legislators for enacting inane legislation. In most cases they’re merely responding to the demands of an inane constituency. This, of course, explains why the statute books are filled with the many senseless laws with which we’re plagued.
Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, issues a monthly newsletter in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. It may be viewed online at www.onthemoneytrail.net.