Monday, April 06, 2009

Debating tobacco prohibition for 18 year olds

Over at the Lone Star Times, David Jennings offered a thoughtful reaction to SB 1049 by Uresti, legislation with bipartisan support that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18-19, concluding:
Lots of questions on this one. The first one being the most basic, is it “right” to tell an 18 year old that he/she is not old enough to make a decision about tobacco? And if it is “right”, why not go all the way to 21?
Texas youth can drive and get married at 16 with parental consent, but can't legally have sex outside of marriage until they're 17. At 17 they can be prosecuted as felons and join the military with parental consent. At 17 and 18, respectively, they can get married and joint the military without parental consent. At 18 they can smoke, though Uresti's bill would increase that to 19. At 21 they can drink.

This array of age criteria will inevitably seem unfair to youth, teaching the implicit lesson that rules are arbitrary, pointless, and something they can reasonably ignore, as they see their peers doing without significant penalty. (As an aside: Don't you find it odd that Texas law would prefer you were married before subjecting you to all the various vices later in life that might undermine your marriage?)

Indeed, parents today are few and far between who can credibly lecture their kids about teen drinking, smoking, etc., without just a whiff of hypocrisy because they did the same thing - something that I'd bet dollars to donuts is true of most senators who voted for the bill. Drinking and smoking are both a significant part of American culture, for good or ill, and have been since the founding of the republic. Jennings quotes a youth who believes that extending the ban on tobacco will only add to its mystique.

For me, I've always thought the key age threshold should be when the state begins to hold you criminally culpable as an adult, which in Texas is seventeen. At that point you've assumed the full responsibilities of adult citizenship, and they should give you all the rights.

If there's some argument that youths' mental faculties aren't fully developed enough to exercise their rights, then it's unjust to ask them to bear the full burden of adult responsibility in criminal court. Whatever threshold you think is right for intoxicants, tobacco, etc., much less military service, I think should be the same as for criminal culpability - be it 17, 18, 19 or 21 - wherever you want to draw the line distinguishing juveniles from adults, it should be the same for everything.

24 comments:

sunray's wench said...

There must be an echo in here; could have sworn I made the same points at the bottom of your 'Romeo and Juliet' post a couple of days ago!

Don said...

And don't forget, the marriage with consent of parents age was 14 before it was changed to illegally target the FLDS. The Texas Lege doesn't have to be rational. Raising smoking age to 19 doesn't make any more sense than most stuff they do. They say they want to keep tobacco out of high schools. Say whut? There aren't 19 year olds in high schools? Besides, they don't sell cigarettes in high schools anyway, do they? The younger kids got them before, they'll get them now if they want them. These people have some frickin' WORK they could be doing, seems to me.

Don said...

I mean, aren't there oyster crimes that need enhancing? Some of them aren't even felonies yet.

Robert said...

You're making my head hurt! Stop making sense!

Don Dickson said...

If the Legislature wants to keep cigarettes out of high schools, why don't they simply pass a bill to keep cigarettes out of high schools? Seems to work (most of the time) for guns and sex offenders.

I love this bill only because it's the kind of ridiculous bill that will prompt a ridiculous debate that will gridlock the Legislature from messing up twelve other things.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was about twelve, and began smoking in earnest when I was fifteen. Pretty sure it was illegal then, too.

TxBluesMan said...

The age of consent law was not targeted at the FLDS, and in any case is not illegal.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the idea of picking an age for "adult" responsibility" and sticking with it.

At what age can a child enter into a binding contract for example buy a house - agree to a plea bargain - defend this country?

Legislators were elected to represent the people. Surely they can think about something that isn't directly related to getting re-elected!

TxBluesMan said...

Anon 12:53,

The age is defined.

They can agreed to a plea bargain as an adult at age 17.

They can get married without consent at age 17.

They are no longer a child per the Family Code at age 18.

They can vote and buy cigarettes at 18 as well as enter into contracts and buy houses.

They can drink at 21.

They can run for Gov at age 30.

They can run for Pres at age 35.

Don said...

Oh come one Bluesy. Even the idiot who sponsored the bill admitted it was for FLDS. And that makes it unconstitutional.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Bluesy, you're a piece of work. Even the bill author on raising the marriage age (Harvey Hildebran) said it was intended to target FLDS, what's your source for denying it?

As for your examples of running for Governor and President, those are quite different from the examples related to vice crimes, aren't they? For starters, they're constitutional while the other ages change near constantly depending on public mores. Plus, those constitutional examples practically will affect very few people, while drinking/smoking ages, etc., affects the broad masses.

You're just like a one-man red herring factory, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

We either endorse 'full majority' at a certain age or we slip and slide through this ridiculous charade of 'you're adult for this but not for that'...

Full majority @ 18 seems reasonable, and cut the crap about teen brains still so undeveloped as to be unable to take decisions!

TxBluesMan said...

Don, if you are talking about Hilderbran, his bill (HB 3006) didn't make it off the House floor, much less pass.

The change was in SB 6 (Nelson), which dealt with a comprehensive change for CPS and offenses against children.

While Hilderbran has claimed credit for the bill, that's just a politician talking, since his bill failed.

Second, the law applies to everyone, and meets the constitutional test set out by SCOTUS.


Grits,

Do a bill search for HB 3006 in 2005. It doesn't matter what the purpose was for that bill - it didn't pass. It even states that in the article you linked to.

Second, you need to actually look at the SCOTUS opinion in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), which is the leading opinion on this issue. It stated:

"...adverse impact will not always lead to a finding of impermissible targeting. For example, a social harm may have been a legitimate concern of government for reasons quite apart from discrimination.", Lukumi, at 535, citing Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879) and Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 (1890).

Note that both cases cited involved the prohibition of polygamy, and claimed to be targeted at the Mormons.

Second, SCOTUS noted:

"We turn next to a second requirement of the Free Exercise Clause, the rule that laws burdening religious practice must be of general applicability. All laws are selective to some extent, but categories of selection are of paramount concern when a law has the incidental effect of burdening religious practice. The Free Exercise Clause "protect[s] religious observers against unequal treatment," and inequality results when a legislature decides that the governmental interests it seeks to advance are worthy of being pursued only against conduct with a religious motivation." Lukumi, at 542-543 (citations omitted).

All bigamists in Texas face the same punishment, and the State has prosecuted others for the same offense without a religious motivation.

The Bigamy law in Texas is clearly constitutional. Your claim that it is not, like your earlier claims that the search was illegal, is not based on substantial case law, but on your own desires.

Anonymous said...

"Texas youth can drive and get married at 16 with parental consent, but can't legally have sex outside of marriage until they're 17."

So are you saying that if two 16 year olds decide to get it on that it's illegal and they can be charged with a crime? If they can't be charged with a crime, it looks perfectly legal, huh?

Anonymous said...

"So are you saying that if two 16 year olds decide to get it on that it's illegal and they can be charged with a crime?"

Actually yes, as of this moment, it IS illegal for two 16's to 'get it on'. Unless the bills in the lege pass this year it always will be..

Anonymous said...

Do you charge both?

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha thats so funny,, I graduated from Borger High School in 1977 and they had designated smoking areas for the Students,,, Now thats something I guess im gettin old.. I wish someone would sponsor a Bill that would test the Legislatures for Drugs and Alchol?? Now that would be funny!!!Oh well im 50 years old and really got a laugh out of that one,, Man in the troubled times maybe one of the Cowboys could start thinking of something useful to put out there!!!
I think im right on the Drug testing and alchol testing yearly of all politicians,,,,,, Now lets see who would get that passed????

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the 70's. Our teen lives were much simpler then.

sunray's wench said...

Kids can drive legally at 16, yet not have sex legally outside marriage until they are 17. Which causes more deaths each year?

kaptinemo said...

When I was younger, it was my family that made sure I understood the responsibilities of adulthood and the penalties for failing to live up to them.

For example, Da made it clear that anything the police did to me if I was stupid enough to be driving drunk would be nothing compared to what he (former combat Marine) would do to my sorry arse.

But he also told me that if I was going to experiment with alcohol, to do it at home. The bottles were easily accessed, and there were never any pencil marks on the labels to gauge usage.

But I never did. I never touched a drop all through jr. high, high school and college. Just never had any interest...partly because he demystified it. No 'forbidden fruit' to be snatched in secret. All out in the open. So none of us kids turned out to be drinkers. None of us got in trouble with the Law because of it.

The same with tobacco. It was there, because Mum smoked like a chimney for years (until pleurisy forced her to stop) and the understanding was that we might be curious, so when we were old enough, it was our choice. But like with the booze, we all said "No thanks."

We don't need The State to tell kids how to act, we just need parents to do that...as they should have been doing, all along.

Anonymous said...

"We don't need The State to tell kids how to act, we just need parents to do that...as they should have been doing, all along."

The federal government thinks so. The federal government is setting the example for state government.

I wander what they teach in high school civics as to what the role of government is suppose to be. Probably are far cry from what it's suppose to be and what it really is.

As time goes by, it's only going to becomee increasingly intrusive.

Support a local tea party on
April 15th.

x4livin said...

Lets just stop making and selling cigarettes. Problem solved and we have a healthier nation and healthcare costs plummet. (I realize despirate people will find something to smoke..let them..the majority of the nation just gets over it)

Don said...

Bluesy: How is it over there in Egypt on Denial River? The law had it's genesis in the the Hildebran bill, which failed probably BECAUSE he said it was targeted. The fact that it was picked up and changed to pass muster doesn't change anything. Actually, what is frustrating is that you are not stupid, and you know this as well as I do, yet you persist. Grits is right, you are a one-man red herring factory AND a piece of work.
X4LIVIN: Let's just stop making them? I'm not making them and selling them. Are you? So, I guess we would have to pass a PROHIBITION law against making and selling them. Which worked so well with booze before and is working so well with drugs now.

Anonymous said...

rev. kiker here

17 yr olds can face charges as adults of minors in possession; make sense of that if you can.

Anthony said...

I have to disagree with comparing the ability to be tried as an adult to smoking. I don't think that those decisions have anything to do with each other. Although I don't disagree with the whole arbitrary age argument, it does make sense to postpone as long as possible the decision to become addicted to cigarrettes. Personally I think they should extend the age limitations to the age when kids stop growing. Whether that be 18, 21, or 35 should be determined by a doctor not a legislator. The fact that irresponsible adults allow kids to start smoking underage is beside the point. The law is aimed at protecting as many people as possible. If we used the argument that some people get away with it so what is the point of the law, then we wouldn't have any laws on the books.