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Paternalists win: Chicago bans under-21s from buying tobacco or vaping

(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

(AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

Chicago is the latest city to embrace paternalism, as the city council passed an ordinance to raise the legal tobacco-buying age to 21.

The proposal, spurred by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, applies to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco, according to NBC Chicago.

The young adults of Chicago, while they can vote, join the military, get married, and accept enormous student loans, cannot be trusted to buy cigarettes and alcohol.

“Chicago is choosing kids over big tobacco,” Emanuel tweeted after the vote, though 20-year-olds are not children.

Proponents of the proposal celebrated, claiming that the law will help save lives and improve public health.

Economic interests should not take precedence over the welfare of Chicago’s youth. Today’s vote will help families protect the health of their children today and in the future,” Ester E. Sciammarella, executive director of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, said in a press release.

Chicago follows a trend of cities that have raised the legal age for buying tobacco products. New York City, Kansas City, Cleveland, and more than 100 other cities have instituted regulations in recent years. Usually, the law punishes sellers by revoking licenses to sell tobacco, rather than young buyers.

Often, local health commissions make the rule changes rather than a city council or state legislature.

Last November, the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a nationwide ban on smoking in public housing. Tobacco, smokeless and otherwise, has been on the losing end of local, state, and federal policy for years.

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