OPINION – 238 years ago, the founding fathers signed the Constitution which has since governed our country, and by doing so created the union of the United States. This union, according to the constitution, was founded to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity. Nowhere in the documents which guide our country is it stated or even implied that the purpose of the state is to legislate morality or be a big brother to the people. Why then do we let our legislators do exactly that?
During my time living in Utah I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena. Many of the people here call for “more liberty” and “less government intrusion” in their lives, up until the point when it includes something they personally don’t like. Then they are quick to call upon lawmakers to restrict and stamp out whatever behavior it is they disagree with. This is characterized by Utah’s restrictive alcohol and tobacco laws, and the doomed to fail fight against gay marriage. Whereas the Pledge of Allegiance calls for “liberty… for all”, Utah seems to stand for “liberty for those who agree with me.”
The most recent event in Utah’s long line of legislating morality and curbing the individual freedoms of its people is the introduction of SB 12. This bill, which on Thursday passed a committee vote of 4-1, aims to raise the already ridiculous age of purchasing and using tobacco from 19 to 21. Before moving on, I first wish to question why a small group of only five people should be able to select which laws go to ballot for a state of nearly three million residents?
I want to start by pointing out that these preventative laws simply do not work as well as their supporters believe and claim them to. According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, around 9 out of every 10 smokers start smoking before the age of 18. Their studies also show that 23 percent of high school students currently use some form of tobacco. Being in high school myself, I can attest to the fact that many of my fellow students acquire and use tobacco products on a regular basis. What would raising the current age of use do? For one, it would increase the profits Nevada and specifically Mesquite makes from Utah residents wishing to be treated like adults. Other than that, I don’t believe the percentage of smokers or the use of tobacco in Utah would be affected very much.
This isn’t to say that we should abolish age-restrictive laws altogether. I myself don’t think minors should drink or smoke because of the negative health impacts, and I believe if these laws were removed we would see a large increase in the rate of alcohol and tobacco use by minors. However I also believe protecting minors is as far as these laws should go.
When you support restricting what personal choices a legal adult can and cannot make, you indirectly attempt to make their personal decisions for them and dictate what they can and cannot do with their bodies. This is in direct opposition to the ideas of personal freedom and liberty guaranteed to us in the constitution, as each individual’s body is their own and nobody but themselves have the right to claim ownership over it.
When a person becomes an adult at the age of 18, we give them more larger responsibilities and more liberty in the decisions they are able to make. They can purchase property, vote for a law or person which affects many more people than just themselves, or choose to join the military and possibly die fighting for their country. Why then should they not be allowed to make such personal basic decisions such as who they marry or what they put in their body? When a stranger chooses, for example, to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own home, how does this have any effect on you personally? Some would attest that these “immoral” behaviors lead to crimes such as theft or murder, to which I would remind them we already have laws against theft and murder. These laws are perfectly valid and acceptable, as they protect individuals from each other, rather than attempting to protect individuals from themselves.
Allen Christensen, Luz Robles, Brian Shiozawa, Daniel Thatcher, and people of Utah; my morals and personal choices are not the same as yours. Even amongst yourselves I’m sure there are differences in opinions, beliefs, and choices. However what I choose to do in my personal life and the choices I make concerning my body have no effect on you and should not be your concern, just as your personal choices do not affect me. I can assure you I have absolutely no interest in them either. This is why I ask the legislators and people of Utah to quit their attempts to control the decisions of grown adults and to not force their personal beliefs on others. If you truly believe in freedom and liberty for all, you will not try to restrict and legislate other people’s personal choices and liberties.
Submitted by Alex Ellis
Ed. note: Letters to the Editor are published “as is” without edit. The opinions stated are those of the writer and may not be representative of St. George News.
- Bill to raise age restriction to 21 for tobacco products passes committee
- Attorney General issues statement on submitting opening brief on appeal of same-sex marriage case
- State lawmakers look to raise legal smoking age; Great American Smoke Out
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