For as long as the uniform drinking age in the United States has been 21—1984, by most accounts— it has been easy to rail against the dynamic where one can be adult enough to go to war, but not to have a drink.
Outlasting that has been the effort to connect the acknowledged dangers of cigarettes with a policy that would keep them out of the hands of younger people. Writing 50 years ago in The Atlantic, Elizabeth Drew noted the extraordinary efforts required to secure a label on packs of cigarettes that simply read Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health. That measure came at the expense of more aggressive action planned by the FTC.
But quietly, even as smoking rates have recently declined in the United States, albeit more slowly among lower-income Americans, a movement to raise the legal age to buy cigarettes seems to have caught fire.
On Monday evening, the city council in Cleveland, Ohio, voted to ban the sale of cigarettes (including e-cigarettes) to anyone under 21. The “Metropolis of the Western Reserve” now joins New York City; Paterson, New Jersey; and Hawaii County as places with that age requirement. (A law making 21 the age of sale in all of Hawaii goes into effect next month.)