How Much Of Your Liberty Are You Prepared To Forfeit?

Written by Michael Cummings on April 25, 2019

Spending a semester in Europe was one of the best things I’ve done, but it always bugged me how much Europeans smoke. Day or night, virtually every restaurant, bar, or coffee shop – so many people puffing away. We once walked into a café on the Asian side of Turkey that overlooks the Bosporus Strait. I would like to say I enjoyed a Turkish coffee while enjoying the beautiful view but the smoke was so thick, I couldn’t see much out of the windows.

Prior to Europe and many years after, my personal utopia was a cigarette-free world (I didn’t mind cigars or pipes). I hated coming home from going out, smelling like an ashtray. And when Big Tobacco became the hard target for the virtue signaling folk of Washington, D.C., I cheered, “Get ‘em!”

I now know how wrong I was.

No, I don’t now condone smoking cigarettes. No one under 50 who smokes can plead negligence. We’ve long known how awful it is for your body. My conversion centers on the proper role of government and, like helmet laws, we’ve taken what may benefit an individual to mean the government must enforce and the taxpayer must provide.

Case in point:

Walgreens is increasing the age to buy tobacco at its drugstores to 21 later this year as the retailer faces possible sanctions from the Food and Drug Administration for allegedly selling to minors.

The FDA put Walgreens “on notice” in February, accusing the pharmacy chain of violating rules that prohibit selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to underage buyers. Walgreens, the FDA noted, is currently the top violator among pharmacies that sell tobacco products. Some 22 percent of Walgreens locations inspected by the agency caught employees illegally selling tobacco products to minors, the FDA said.

Walgreens has tightened its policies in response. Starting Sept. 1, it will require customers to be at least 21 years old in order to buy tobacco products.

It’s disheartening to read the LinkedIn comments. Only a few seem bothered by this overreach.

I just don’t understand why they market health and continue to sell not only addictive products, but also products related to cancer and poor health outcomes. Excuse me, What aisle is asbestos on?

It’s even more disheartening to learn Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – a Republican — is planning on putting forth legislation to make 21 years the national minimum.

If Walgreens or any other organization selling tobacco wants to raise the minimum age to 35, it’s management’s prerogative. What I object to — at a visceral level — is government getting involved.

If you want to take the risk of ruining or ending your life by smoking cigarettes…

If you want to ride a motorcycle without a helmet…

If you don’t want to wear your seat belt while in a car…

If you want to use a vaporizer instead of burning tobacco – which has been proven to help people stop smoking…

If you want to enter the perimeter of Washington D. C. without several vomit bags…


It has been proven that those who step outside their homes to walk down the street are much more likely to get run over by a car than those who remain indoors. Don’t assume for a second some lawmaker isn’t thinking of ways to solve this problem. It’s coming.

At some point, we must return to, and be okay with, acceptable risk.

Michael Cummings
Michael A. Cummings has a Bachelors in Business Management from St. John's University in Collegeville, MN, and a Masters in Rhetoric & Composition from Northern Arizona University. He has worked as a department store Loss Prevention Officer, bank auditor, textbook store manager, Chinese food delivery man, and technology salesman. Cummings wrote position pieces for the 2010 Trevor Drown for US Senate (AR) and 2012 Joe Coors for Congress (CO) campaigns.