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Denmark comes up with new ways to promote illegal trade

Prohibition is a money maker for black marketeers and a jobs program for the law enforcement industry required to enforce it.

Denmark was the first country to legalize pictorial and audiovisual pornography in 1969, so seeing its government take a new puritanical turn is particularly upsetting.

The Ministry of Health has already set a goal of raising the drinking age from 16 to 18 years old. Denmark's health minister declared this month that tobacco and nicotine products will no longer be sold to anybody born after 2010. The Health Ministry expects that by doing so, the country would progressively phase out the use of all tobacco and nicotine products. The Health Ministry adopted this step in response to the country's 13,600 annual fatalities from smoking-related cancers.

People under the age of 18 are now prohibited from purchasing such items. According to a Danish government survey, 31% of 15- to 29-year-olds smoke. This suggests that a large percentage of 15- to 18-year-olds are already served by the black market. Is the Health Ministry certain that prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to persons born after 2010 will not result in a spike in underground sales, with all the consequences that entails (from contaminated tobacco goods to violent crime)?

Surprisingly, two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-olds in Denmark approve of the planned ban, according to the Danish Health Ministry. They were all born before to the year 2010.

Denmark was not the first country to implement tobacco prohibition, even if it was the first to legalize pornography. New Zealand said last year that, starting in 2022, it will prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anybody born before 2008, and that, starting in 2023, it will gradually raise the minimum age for people to purchase tobacco products.

It's one thing to limit sales to kids, but it's quite another to forbid sales to adults. Adults' freedom to swallow or otherwise eat anything they want into their bodies, assuming all risks, is violated by prohibition. Prohibition is both a moneymaker for black marketeers and a job creator for the law enforcement profession that is required to implement it.

Puritanism, according to H.L. Mencken, is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, could be happy." Puritanism as a policy has less than amusing outcomes.


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