COLUMBIA - People under 21 in Jefferson City can no longer buy tobacco products. But Jefferson City is the 11th city or county in Missouri to pass this ordinance, leaving many to wonder if these policies are really preventing teens from getting their hands on a pack of cigarettes.
Columbia was the first city in Missouri to pass the Tobacco 21 ordinance in December 2014, according to tobacco21.org.
Alec Stanley is the store manager at We B Smokin in Columbia. He said he knows this ordinance does nothing to keep teenagers from getting tobacco.
"If you have one 18 year old in the car, you can go out of town and buy it and then come back in town and disseminate it amongst all the kids you know. They'll do that, and I know they will because I did the same thing when I was 16," Stanley said.
The Target 8 team looked into data to see if tobacco usage amongst people under 21 has gone down since the ordinance was put in place.
Columbia Public Schools conducts a survey every two years on how many of its students use tobacco. The district takes each survey at the beginning of the year, between January and March. The district took the 2015 survey shortly after the ordinance went into effect in Columbia in December 2014.
In 2013, 10.1 percent of CPS students grades 6-12 said they used tobacco in the last 30 days. In 2015, 3.3 percent of CPS students reported using tobacco.
According to the Missouri Department of Revenue, the total state wide cigarette sales tax revenue has remained almost constant between the 2012 and 2016 fiscal years. Tobacco product tax revenue has also remained nearly constant.
Because the 11 cities and counties have relatively new Tobacco 21 provisions, it is difficult to know the impact statewide.
However, Kansas City, in Jackson County, passed its ordinance in November 2015. The county's total cigarette sales tax collection has slightly decreased since 2012.
Stanley said his business took a hard hit when the Columbia ordinance went into place.
"There were people who were 20 years old who had been buying cigarettes from us for years at that point, and we had to turn them away," he said. "They just go right up the road, and they buy there."
According to the Columbia Municipal Court, there were no citations given out in 2015 or 2016.
The Columbia Police Department also conducted compliance checks in 2016 and found only one Columbia store sold tobacco to the underage buyer.
According to CPD, the following locations were checked and did not sell tobacco to the underage buyer:
- Hy-Vee, 3100 W. Broadway
- Wal-Mart, 3001 W. Broadway
- Petro Mart 41, 5612 St. Charles Road
- Casey's General Store, 3905 Clark Lane
- Tiger Stop, 3500 Clark Lane
The following location did sell tobacco to the underage buyer:
- Dollar General Store, 3020 Paris Road
CPD Public Information Officer Bryana Larimer said the ordinance is complaint-based, so officers only check a store if multiple reports were filed.
For our Town Square segment, we asked Facebook users what they think about Tobacco 21 ordinances. You can view the video here and comment.
We also polled followers on Twitter, and most have said the ordinances are ineffective.
Do you think requiring people to be 21 to buy tobacco products helps keep teenagers from smoking? @KOMUnews— Melissa Zygowicz (@MelissaZygTV) April 19, 2017