This largely reflects a bigger debate regarding the freedoms allowed to 18-20 year olds. A lot rhetoric is centered around this age group's ability to go to war and vote. I flip-flop a lot on this issue in my own head. But, the fact remains that these citizens can vote and can legally challenge the government's decisions in this context. It is up to these people to defend their own rights as adults.
This is the classic example of public welfare versus personal liberty. If we accept that for legal purposes, the age of majority is 18, then this is the age in which persons are considered competent to enter into contracts, be charged as adults for crimes, etc., and so it is a logical choice for purchasing cigarettes; perhaps some of the discussion should address whether 18 is still the appropriate age to consider the age of majority. The age of majority varies between 15-21 throughout the world.
If a person makes a well-informed decision to take actions that harm himself/herself, I do not think it is the role of public policy to prohibit such, even if indirectly harms the collective (through increased medical expenses, etc.), on the principle of self-determination. Because cigarettes provide no real benefit, and can have significant costs, a cost-benefit analysis would say cigarettes should not be used by anyone, and a person could argue for a universal prohibition on such grounds. However, it is my opinion that the cost-benefit analysis is up to each individual, and the role of public policy is to ensure that individuals are appropriately informed of the risks that one faces.
Some people never mature enough to make important decisions appropriately; some people are mature enough at 13 to sensibly decide the cost-benefits of such decisions. The age of majority is, by definition, an arbitrary approximation of an age in which a person is ready to make such decisions. I would argue that it is good public policy to be consistent, even if it is at an arbitrary age. For that reason, I believe purchasing tobacco products should be limited to those 18 years of age.
Even with the new laws, at least since I was a kid and smoking, it doesn't seem that our youth are being deprived of tobacco.
Using tobacco is perhaps the only thing we do that has NO useful benefits. There is nothing good that comes from tobacco use. Nothing! It is dirty, it smells, it ages skin prematurely, it causes myriad of health problems, it is addictive, it causes cancer, it is expensive, it harms people around you.
While restrictive purchasing laws have helped curb use somewhat and restrictive use laws (where you can't smoke anymore) have helped somewhat more, only education coupled with prohibitive cost seem to convince people that smoking is bad for you.
I vote for doubling and then tripling tobacco costs.
Some are gonna say: if you can send a 18 year old to war, you can allow him to buy cigarettes. But they are getting it backwards. You should not be able to send a 18 year old to war.
Plainly put, If you old enough to have children, buy a house, pay taxes, join the military, and even die for this country.. you be should be considered old enough to purchase and use tobacco and alcohol.
There should be no legal age to buy anything... the law has zero business forcing its will on any U.S. citizen doing anything in the pursuit of happiness (that doesn't affect the free will of others).
As I've heard SO many times before when it benefits large corporations... if you remove government oversight and restrictions then the market will take care of itself.
It doesn't work for cigarettes and alcohol? Then it doesn't work for anything else, either.
I think you should be able to smoke cigarettes when you are old enough and responsible enough to clean up your own mess. I worked in a supermarket back in the '80's when there were no restrictions, and I had to fish cigarette butts out of the urinal even when there was an ashtray right there! on top of the urinal! I had to sweep up the ones people left in the parking lot. Some people would take the ashtray out of their car and dump it in the parking lot for someone else to clean up. People flick them out of cars in drought areas and start forest fires.
With rights come responsibilities. If you can't dispose of your butts/ashes properly, you don't belong smoking cigarettes. I don't care if you're 13 or 103. The world is not your ashtray and we are not your maids.