Center for a Stateless Society
A Left Market Anarchist Think Tank & Media Center
Hawaii’s War on Personal Freedom

Hawaii is ushering in the new year with the introduction of a law making it illegal for people between the ages of 18 and 20 to obtain tobacco products. Fines will be imposed on those selling tobacco to individuals in this age range as well as those purchasing it, following a three month grace period. Similar laws have been passed in cities around the country including New York and Boston.

The bill was passed by Hawaii’s Democratic governor David Ige. One would hope the Democrats would be better served by supporting less drug prohibition, rather than more. It is amazing any young people or those with a even shred of anti-authoritarian sentiment would be supportive of a party so enthusiastic about taking their liberties away.

If you can be asked to vote or told to fight and die for your country you should be able to make your own choices about tobacco use. Such a denial of liberty is both the height of authoritarianism and highly insulting to young people. Frankly, we should be teaching teens to make responsible choices rather than denying them choice. The last thing we need is the continued infantilization of American teens by the government. If you want people to act like adults, treat them as such.

Much of the support for the new law comes at the behest of the US military which does not find smokers to be the best soldiers. Have we become some sort of Sparta-style military state where even civilians have to give up liberties to keep the armed forces happy? It sounds a little too much like the terrorists have won already. We live in an age in which the risks of tobacco use are well known to everyone old enough to partake in it, and the use of tobacco products is trending downward. Thus, such authoritarian measures can hardly be argued as necessary.

In a free society people should be able to make their own decisions, including bad ones, and deal with the consequences. Just because the state uses taxpayer money to fund some medical care, doesn’t mean it should be permitted to further erode liberty in the name of “public health.” This is especially true when much of the inflated cost of medical care is also due to state intervention. Decisions in general should be left to the individual.

Ironically, I suspect the three month grace period will see young smokers and their friends heavily stocking up on tobacco supplies while they can. Of course the $10 to $50 imposed on young smokers appear to be created first and foremost to take more money from young people.

I am in no way a fan of the tobacco industry, but having the state actively persecute it only helps to legitimize its claims of unfair treatment. Let’s start treating 18 to 20-year-olds as adults and discontinue the growing trend of treating them as children. Furthermore, let’s end authoritarian practices in the name of public health and Hawaii’s war on personal freedom.

Citations to this article:

Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist