There are reports that the city of Dover, NH have passed a law that threatens anyone under 21 who possesses tobacco products. There are approximately 433 people in Dover who are under 21 and not already victimized by regular laws that oppress adults under the age of 18. The ordinance takes effect on July 4th.
I don’t think that there is any dispute that people who smoke are engaging in self-destructive, stupid behavior. Preventing people from engaging in self-destructive and stupid behavior is the purview of parenting, not of strangers with police cars and bearcats. And of course, the State takes the rejection of peaceful parenting to the extreme. Violently robbing people is not a particularly effective way to convince them to make beneficial behavioral changes; it just adds a violent robbery to an already bad situation. It is an ad hominem, but violently attacking people for engaging in unhealthy behaviors will just make them more likely to defend their unhealthy behaviors. When the State aggresses against people for doing something that they ought not do but has no victims, the conversation shifts from whether or not they should engage in that behavior to whether or not they should be violently attacked for engaging in that behavior. If the goal actually was to prevent smoking among young people, the State would not cause those who seek to do so to first confront a person who is upset about being victimized, or even just threatened, by the State. It wastes time and it confuses the issues. It shouldn’t; people should be more logical than that. But it does, and the State can not be unaware that it does.
All victimless crimes have the effect of shifting focus away from the merits of the criminalized behavior. Understandably so, because someone being robbed, kidnaped, battered, and possibly killed is a more pressing issue than smoking, excessive drug use, public nudity, promiscuity, etc. To the surprise of no one, State agent or otherwise, it is more difficult to convince someone who is a victim of State violence to change the behavior that was used as an excuse for their victimization. It appears to be a justification of the aggression, even though it isn’t. Criminalization also has the effect of obfuscating the negative effects of harmful behavior. Does an individual have problems in life because they engage in a harmful behavior or because State agents keep aggressing against them? Both, but it is difficult to assign particular ill effects to each cause, and even more difficult to present a convincing case while the State is still there aggressing against them. Criminalization perpetuates harmful behaviors and partially isolates them from critique.