University of Missouri graduate student Christopher White reports on a smoking controversy involving a recently passed law.

Students can legally vote, purchase handguns, join the military and be tried as an adult at the age of 18.

But according to the political elite in Columbia, the home of the University of Missouri, 18 is too young to buy a pack of smokes. And it’s not just Columbia.

The Columbia city council voted 6-1 earlier this month to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. The ordinance also restricts the purchase of e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

The new law has angered Columbia residents and MU students alike: Opponents have launched three petition referendums to scuttle each part of the law.

Petitioners have until Jan. 5 to collect the signatures of 3,209 registered voters to force the council to reconsider its decision before putting it to the voters.

Columbia First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick spearheaded the ordinance, the Missourian reported. She argues that the public health benefit of increasing the legal age was overwhelming, as many smokers become addicted to cigarettes as teenagers.

Centers for Disease Control research has shown than 90 percent of smokers start the habit before they can legally buy tobacco, the Missourian noted.

Chadwick, a University of Missouri graduate student, has courted controversy in the past. The College Fix reported that in June, she proposed banning alcohol consumption at a Columbia public park in a predominantly black neighborhood, prompting some in the community to cry racism.

Parroting Chadwick’s argument, MU School of Health Professor Stan Cowan said at the city council meeting that research by doctors showed people were unlikely to smoke if they had not done so by age 21 and could quit more easily if they started that late, KRCG News reported.

Columbia residents and the student population have pounded the city council’s vote, saying that it violates the individual liberties of young people.“The tobacco ordinance has nothing to do with stopping underage kids from smoking and everything to do with the council’s addiction to legislating away people’s freedoms,” Jake Loft, chairman of the Mizzou College Republicans and University of Missouri student, told The Fix in an email.

Detractors have said the ordinance is well intentioned but ultimately a piece of legislation that tilts at windmills.

“I have serious doubts that this legislation will successfully decrease 18-20 year old smoking enough to make any sense,” Anthony Vibbard, MU law student and chapter president of the Federalist Society, told The College Fix.

“Any given Saturday, it seems fairly obvious that the drinking age laws have little to no effect on 18-20 year old access to alcohol in Columbia city limits,” Vibbard said….