In a community where we ask people as young as 16 and 17 to commit their lives to serving in the military, it seems contradictory to say they can’t decide for themselves whether they should be allowed the personal decision to pick up a cigarette until they’re 21 years old.
At 16, we tell our youth they are responsible enough to drive a car; and at 18 they are old enough, mature enough, and wise enough to make decisions that impact their lives, like apply for loans for a car or a home. In addition, recently enacted Public Law 33-12 allows 16-year-old minors to pre-register to vote for elected officials.
“What is the age of reason?” the Governor asks. Also, how much should we allow the government into our private lives and personal actions, in the name of saving people from themselves?
“The bill is well intentioned,” the Governor stated in his veto message to Speaker Judith Won Pat. “The adverse health risks associated with tobacco and smoking are real and not up for debate. What is troubling with this bill is that it constitutes a willful intrusion into the personal lives and choices of our citizens.”
Bill 141-33 also is vague and unenforceable. For example, it fails to mention applications to military bases and service members.
“If a military service member between the ages of 18 and 21 years old is found on base to be in possession of tobacco products and in violation of Section 6405 of the bill, will that service member have to attend the Government of Guam-sponsored smoking cessation education program described in Section 6406? And what about the cost of this program?” the Governor asks in his veto message. “Will the Legislature be providing any funding for its creation and administration?”
The Governor notes that social issues such as raising the smoking age to 21 are perhaps best left to the referendum process.
“I feel strongly that the government is not a nanny, and the 15 senators who make up the Legislature do not have the prerogative to tell the thousands of Guamanians old enough to give their life in military service, vote, marry, have children, or sign legally binding contracts that they can’t buy a pack of cigarettes,” the Governor states. “As adults, we each have the right to make our own individual life choices, even if that choice is bad for our health. And it’s our personal responsibility to live with whatever choice we ultimately make.”