Columbia health board recommends raising tobacco age to 21
COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Board of Health voted to recommend increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products at its meeting Thursday night.
The board recommends the Columbia City Council raise the legal age from 18 to 21. The board also voted to recommend the sale of all e-cigarette products, regardless of whether they have nicotine in them, be restricted to those 21 or older.
One of the reasons for the board's recommendation involves concern for younger members of the community. The chairman said increasing the age could make it harder for teenagers to get their hands on cigarettes and other products.
Chairmain Michael Szewczyk, M.D., said anything the board can do to help limit young people's access to tobacco products is helpful.
"Science shows that the earlier somebody starts smoking, the more likely they are to become addicted and for a longer period," he said.
Ronald Leone, Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (MPCA) Executive Director, spoke to the board about why he opposes raising the legal age to 21.
He said raising the age could have a negative impact on the city's sales tax revenue. He said instead of decreasing tobacco and e-cigarette product sales, those sales will simply shift outside city limits.
Leone also said this issue is about freedom of choice for adults.
"The proposed ordinance is disrespectful, demeaning, paternalistic and inconvenient to adult consumers who wish to purchase a lawful product," Leone said in a letter to the board.
The Columbia/Boone County Board of Health will formally submit its recommendations to city council in the next couple of weeks.
To see all of the materials considered by the board on Thursday, click here.
Dozens of citizens filled the meeting room at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, in Columbia, Missouri. People attended the meeting to hear the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health's recommendations on raising the legal age to purchase tobacco. (KOMU/Ross Terrell)
Chairman of the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health Michael Szewczyk leads a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, in Columbia, Missouri. The board met to discuss raising the legal age to purchase tobacco in Columbia. (KOMU/Ross Terrell)