Columbia citizens seek to repeal tobacco, e-cig ordinances

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COLUMBIA- For the third time in 2014, a group of Columbia citizens are attempting to repeal a Columbia City Council decision.

This time, they're fighting a series of new ordinances that limit the sale of tobacco and vapor products to people under 21. 

"It's really a grassroots effort," said Spencer Pearson, who turned the petition into the city clerk's office. "It's a lot of people coming together on it ... a lot of people are out there on the ground distributing the petition."

The grassroot campaign is using a Facebook page, "Legalize Tobacco and E-Cigs in Columbia, MO 18+," to inform followers and rally others to their cause. As of Thursday, December 18, the group was granted approval to submit an official petition, a movement Mayor Bob McDavid is supporting. 

"With only 20 days, it's nice to have the internet as a tool to organize and a tool to help your community do something without being a part of any one group," said Pearson.

Despite some petitioners saying the city council's intention with the ordinance might have been just, Pearson says it was the wrong way to try and reduce the number of smokers. 

""I don't really see it curbing use," said Pearson. "I think education rather than a prohibition is the approach you need to take when confronting and battling use and addiction problems. When you're talking about a prohibition you need to look at what that really accomplishes, does it make use go down or not?"

Pearson's group is the third this year to voice dissent with the city council. Earlier this year, petitioners sought to stop construction of the Opus student apartments downtown, and a group of Ward 1 constituents is attempting to recall Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick.

All signatures for the tobacco petition must be submitted to the City Clerk by 5:00 pm on Monday, January 5th.