City council raised the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigs

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COLUMBIA – The Columbia City Council will vote on a group of ordinances Monday that would change the allowable age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. The proposed ordinances would also restrict the areas where electronic tobacco products may be used within the city.

"We want to do whatever we can to prevent death by the number one leading cause [of death], and Tobacco-21 is showing that what it does is it protects our youth from becoming addicted," said Ginny Chadwick, Columbia City Council Ward 1. "We still have very young people smoking, and the primary place that they get tobacco, based on research, is from 18 to 20 year olds."

The Columbia Board of Health had a hearing at its October 9 meeting to discuss the applicability of the ordinances being considered by the city council Monday. Robert Crane, a clinical associate professor of family medicine at Ohio State University, gave a presentation at this meeting to talk about raising the age of purchase of tobacco to 21 and the limitations on the use of e-cigarettes in public buildings. Crane said raising the age of purchase to 21 is a way to disrupt the addiction cycle of young people.

Several of Columbia's residents spoke at the public hearing portion of the board of health meeting with mixed opinions on the entire topic, according to meeting minutes. James O'Shea said it is likely that there are teenagers that are already addicted to tobacco, and changing the rules on them now would only make them suffer, and would not be a cure for their addiction, citing his own personal experience.

A Columbia smoke shop manager said these ordinances will not accomplish what the city council intends.

"I get what we're trying to do is stop kids from smoking, but all it does is stop them from buying them in the city limits. It stops them from buying from me, but there's a Break Time a couple hundred yards from here, and they can buy them there," said Alec Stanley, manager at We B Smokin.

Stanley said he thinks the cost of the city not getting the tax revenue from tobacco products is worth passing this kind of restriction.

"I just don't think we should be throwing money away for something that doesn't solve the problem," Stanley said.

According to Missouri law, there is no age limit for the possession of tobacco products. These ordinances would only affect the sale of tobacco products, and it would only affect businesses inside the city limits of Columbia, so people under 21 would have to go outside the city to buy any tobacco product. 

The other two ordinances would restrict e-cigarettes to the same restrictions as regular tobacco products, and would further raise the age of purchase of electronic tobacco products to 21 as well.

The city council voted 6 to 1 to approve of all ordinances.