Why Raising the Smoking Age is Against Conservative Principles

Bill Wells Bill Wells 9 Comments


I rarely find myself at odds with my colleagues on the El Cajon City Council, but this week I was. The issue was on writing a letter of support for SB 151, a bill which would raise the legal age to smoke from 18 to 21. All of the members of my council are conservative in their ideology, but I felt they had missed the mark on this issue. I was the only vote against sending a letter.

The main thrust of their argument was that smoking kills and that it is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens. Two of my fellow council members had heartfelt stories to tell about loved ones whom had died of smoking. It was acknowledged that this might be an overreach of government, but this was acceptable because of the great harm caused by smoking.

It was also acknowledged by my colleagues that both Sen. Joel Anderson and Assemblyman Brian Jones (along with most other Republicans) were against this bill, but their judgement was in question due to taking money from tobacco lobbyists.

I argued that raising the age of smoking from 18 to 21 was a clear case of government overreach. It is not the place of the government to tell legal adults what legal products they can use. I understand that there are exceptions, like the legal age to drink alcohol, but it is clear to me that this is a law aimed at protecting the public from young people who are more prone to drink and drive, than it is to protect young people from alcohol. I pointed out that for the past decade we allow men and women below the age of 21 to fight and die in our military and it would be hypocritical to allow them to do so, but not to make their own decision to smoke or not smoke.

Are we willing to ban skateboarding because kids break bones, or the riding of Harleys because so many riders get killed? At what point do we acknowledge that sometimes adults make bad choices and they then are responsible for the consequences?

A more overriding concern for me is the fact that we as conservatives have to be intellectually honest. We are offended when the Mayor of New York regulates the size of a soda we can buy, or liberals all over the country want to limit our rights to own guns, but we use the same framework of an argument when the issue is about something with which we have a problem.

What I am saying is that it is hypocritical to decry the loss of our freedoms when things we believe in are limited or banned, but we then turn around and use the same arguments to limit or ban something offensive to us. This is why we tolerate flag burning. This is why we would never pass a law to ban a Mosque.

The precedent set by passing SB 151 will strengthen future attempts to criminalize preaching some passages of the Bible from the pulpit, while calling it “hate speech.” Just as my colleagues used the ‘ends justifies the means’ argument to advocate for raising the smoking age, I predict that leftists will make the same argument to ban free political/religious speech in the name of it being called “hate speech.”

We must decide who we are and what we believe in. We must have an intellectual framework which we use to make decisions. The alternative is a mess of laws and regulations based upon the bias and emotions of whoever is in power at the time. It is the framework of the Constitution that has made America the greatest nation in all of human history. Adopting an ideological framework is not easy to do; it takes intellectual discipline.

Frustratingly, there will be times when stupid behaviors like smoking have to be defended, but I’m much more worried about the death of our way of life than I am about the dangers of smoking.


Comments 9

  1. Well said Mr. Mayor. Your principled and consistent stand for limited government is appreciated and will be remembered.

  2. And there we have it. The difference between a statesman and a politician. One looks to the great ideas our nation was built upon and the other to man’s opinion and emotion.

    One looks up and the other looks down.

    One conserves great principles the other conserves the status quo.


  3. Well done, Mayor! It’s better to be free and make unhealthy decisions than live the extra 5-10 years without freedom.

  4. First I would like to say: Sage stay away from that hookah stuff, it will make you sound like an old man by the time you are 30.

    It is so refreshing to see an Elected Official like Mayor Bill Wells stand up for Liberty. It is not the job of Government to protect its citizens, it is the job of Government to defend the Citizens Liberty. It is not the job of Government to pick winners and losers in the Free Market Place, it is the job of Government to foster competition in the Free Market. America was built on Liberty and competition in the Free Market Place, but over the last 50 – 100 years it has been the Government that gets in the way. Men and Women yearn to be Free, to enjoy the full menu of Freedom and Liberty, not to have some Elected Official take it away from them because they know what is best for you. The United States has strayed away from the ideals of Liberty our Founding Fathers espoused; however, I can feel it, I can see Liberty making a coming back. I can see an electorate that is waking up and taking notice.

    In the words of a man I admire greatly: ” You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” – Ronald Wilson Reagan

    Lets don’t let this happen on our watch and it is awesome to know that Mayor Bill Wells has the watch in El Cajon.

    Daniel Yowell, EA U.S. Navy Retired [SEAL]

  5. Whoa! It’s not unusual for a conservative to hold these views, but in this day and age, too few such elected officials are willing to publicly EXPRESS such views. Naturally I agree with the mayor, but more important, I’m impressed by the bold stand in California, the most anti-smoking state in America (well, maybe Mormon Utah beats us out — not sure).

    BTW, I detest smoking. But I detest the oppression of freedom far more.

  6. Good on you Mayor Wells!! Now if we could get agreement on other freedoms such as the lowering the drinking age to 18, the use of all recreational drugs, making a business deal for the short-term use of one’s body (prostitution) and the most fundamental freedom of them all – Allowing a person to live where he/she wants regardless of place of birth.

  7. This:

    “We are offended when the Mayor of New York regulates the size of a soda we can buy, or liberals all over the country want to limit our rights to own guns, but we use the same framework of an argument when the issue is about something with which we have a problem. ”

    This is the argument for abandoning the failed “war” on drugs. FWIW, smoking cigarettes or marijuana isn’t very smart. Smoking crack or meth is plain stupid. Shooting heroin is downright insane BUT…

    Have at it. Just don’t come to me, looking for a handout when you’re dead.

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