In his Star Ledger column, “Crackpot libertarianism at the convenience counter,” Paul Mulshine tries to make the case that Senator Richard Codey’s bill to increase the age to legally buy cigarettes from 19 to 21 is not an infringement on individual liberty. He fails miserably.
Mulshine writes. “…think about the fact that cigarettes annually kill more Americans than all of those (marijuana, opium and crack cocaine) drugs combined, plus alcohol use, car accidents and suicide. So just what is the basis for outrage at a minor restriction (emphasis added) on the most deadly drug of them all?” Applying Mulshine’s logic, then the State of New Jersey should ban cigarettes completely, saving everyone from their own destructive behavior.
Next, Mulshine correctly states, “A strict libertarian could argue that the government has no role in regulating either drug,” that is, marijuana or cigarettes. Correct. The government should not regulate, ban, proscribe, etc., what we smoke, drink, eat, read, where we travel, or how we should defend ourselves. That is called liberty, the founding principle of our country.
Senator Codey, the once acting governor and undertaker, not only buries the departed, he wants to bury individual liberty under the guise of altruism. As Mulshine observes, “Codey is on much firmer ground when it comes to the ‘nanny state’ argument often raised by the crackpot libertarians. Codey argues that people who get through their teen years without smoking are much more likely to avoid addiction. This is backed up both by science and his own observations as an undertaker. In that capacity, he meets many relatives of people killed by smoking.” But people usually die after decades of smoking.
Mulshine then makes the disingenuous argument that since state government pays for the healthcare of the poor (Medicaid), charity care, etc., it has the right to stop young people from smoking by raising the legal age to buy cigarettes from 19 to 21.
Mulshine writes, “If we taxpayers are going to pick up the tab, why shouldn’t we tell young people how to behave? Yuck. Why not raise the age to 25 or 30 or higher, if the “scientific evidence” shows that individuals who begin smoking in their teens increase the risk of a lifetime nicotine addiction?
The logic of this argument should force Codey and Mulshine to support raising the legal age to smoke to 25, 30 or higher, which will then lower the risk of young people beginning to smoke at an early age. Will Codey amend his bill to raise the legal age to purchase cigarettes or will he call for a total ban on cigarettes?
The correct policy on smoking or any other medical issue is for the government to get out of the healthcare sector. Period. That would force individuals to make better decisions about their lifestyle choices. Currently, the government has created a huge moral hazard by subsidizing smoking, in effect telling people that taxpayers will pay for their healthcare if they get ill because of smoking, excessive drinking, overeating, etc.
The solution to create better outcomes in healthcare among other areas of our society is liberty, individual responsibility and voluntary charity, not the twisted logic of Senator Codey and now Paul Mulshine.