Thursday, January 14, 2016

21? Try 12, Mr. Mayor

I can’t help but laugh at the proposal put forth by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise the age at which anyone in Chicago can buy cigarettes.

EMANUEL: Looking out for kids, or self?
For Hizzoner seems to think he can say that no one under 21 can buy a pack of smokes, and it will be so.

PERSONALLY, I REMEMBER that it was about the time I turned 12 that my peers started using cigarettes – and I don’t mean the kid who takes a dare to puff on a lit cigarette while his “friends” gawk in awe and amazement at his “bravado.”

That kid is usually about 8. He (or she) really doesn’t know any better.

I’m talking about someone who starts feeling “the need” to have a cigarette. Yes, it really does happen that young.

So 21? By that time, someone who has taken up the habit is an addict (yes, I use that word purposely) who knows the ways and means of obtaining their preferred tobacco product.

THE IDEA THAT someone who’s ONLY 19 or 20 will somehow be stopped from smoking is nothing but a joke. One of those silly ideas that political people come up with from time to time, and we suspect that deep down even they don’t believe it to be true.

But Emanuel felt compelled to tell us Wednesday how he wants to raise the smoking age to 21 (to match the drinking age, I suppose).

It is part of a larger-scale proposal that includes increases on the municipal taxes charged on cigars, chewing tobacco and those roll-your-own cigarette products (for people who believe they can somehow create a better product than the mass-produced death sticks). One that Emanuel says could raise about $6 million more I revenue for city government.

Of course, if you’re cutting off about eight years of age worth of smokers (officially three years of age, since people under 18 aren’t supposed to be buying cigarettes in the first place), that means you’re theoretically selling fewer cigarettes.

THERE ALREADY ARE the people who are predicting how pointless this whole proposal is. Most likely people who are sucking back a puff of tobacco fumes (and maybe even coughing up a hack or two) while making their angry pronouncement.

Now I must admit to not smoking myself. It’s a habit I never picked up, not even when I was 12. Something about the smell of tobacco never appealed to me, and the smell and sight of cigarette ash downright disgusts me.

But I do have childhood memories of my “peers” discussing amongst ourselves which places were safe to sneak a smoke, and which local businesses would look the other way and sell a pack or two of cigarettes to minors.

Now I’m sure that Emanuel thinks he’s making some grand pronouncement about public health. Perhaps he thinks he’s going to warrant national praise from health-related officials for taking such a “bold” stance to protect our children.

NONSENSE. THE IDEA that Emanuel thinks an age limit is somehow going to stop smoking for anyone is way too naïve. Why 21? Perhaps the mayor just reversed the numerals of "age 12" similar to how Carlton Fisk went from uniform number 27 to number 72 when he switched from Boston to the Chicago White Sox.

I could envision a scenario in which the people who now are calling for Rahm to be impeached, recalled or publicly flogged (and are probably sucking back a puff or two on a cigarette while doing so) will now have their kids joining in the political action.

This strikes me as being more of an effort to detract attention from all the rants and rages being spewed these days to use police conduct towards African-American people as a reason to depose the mayor they couldn’t beat back on Election Day last year.

Instead, it likely gives them something to laugh at while they continue to walk picket lines demanding the removal of Rahm Emanuel from office.


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