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Columbia city councilwoman wants tobacco products restricted for those under 21

Slowly cities across the nation are turning to “Tobacco 21”.

Tobacco 21 means only those 21 and older can legally purchase cigarettes and other nicotine products.

After Monday night’s council meeting Columbia is now looking to make those changes.

Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax of any state at 17 cents a pack.

After several failed attempts to increase the tobacco tax at the state level, ward one councilwoman Ginny Chadwick, wants action at the local level.

Chadwick told ABC 17 News she feels by increasing the age for those to buy tobacco products will significantly improve the health of Columbia youth.

“We want to do what we can as a municipality to protect the health of our community,” said Chadwick.

Smoking is the most preventable cause of disease, disability and death in Missouri according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Data showed 90% of long term smokers started smoking at the age of 18.

“We can amazingly improve our children’s health and grandchildren’s health right off the bat by passing this law,” said Dr. Michael Cooperstock, a pediatrician.

Jonathan Sessions who is on the Columbia school board told ABC 17 News he is also in favor of the ordinance.

“Moving that age in which it prevents our high school students from giving tobacco to students even younger than the restrictive age is something I’m in favor of,” said Sessions.

He said students have already started to write letters to city council members in favor of Tobacco 21.

Chadwick said she knows not everyone is going to be in favor of the ordinance so she is reaching out to other cities for advice on how they successfully enacted Tobacco 21.

It was in Needham, Massachusetts, ten years ago Edward Cosgrove along with two other physicians enacted Tobacco 21.

“We felt if we raised the age to buy tobacco to the same age as alcohol consumption that would have the effect of getting tobacco out of the high school,” said Cosgrove.

“They have had a tremendous reduction in their tobacco use, especially in their youth it went from 13 percent to about 7,” said Chadwick.

“We have seen the teenage smoking rate drop by half. It is actually better than we ever anticipated,” said Cosgrove.

Twenty eight other cities in Massachusetts have jumped on board Tobacco 21.

In New York City those it is illegal for those under 21-years-old to purchase tobacco.

While local governments are stepping up in this effort, Peter Fisher with Tobacco Free Kids said he strongly believes Tobacco 21 will soon make its way to the state level.

“In the smoke free arena a lot of the laws started locally in places like California and Massachusetts, and then spread across the country to the point that thirty states are now completely smoke free,” said Fisher.

Traci Kennedy the director of Tobacco Free Missouri said she is hopeful of this possible change in Columbia.

“Boone County is a great place to start with this, and being a resident here I think this is a good place where the policy does have a chance of being successful, because this is a town that puts things like health and education first,” said Kennedy.

Dr. Cooperstock would also love to see Tobacco 21 in Columbia.

“It’s almost a no brainer in terms of how much can be accomplished for our children’s health and future with just a simple change of a number,” said Cooperstock.

Chadwick is including electronic cigarettes in the ordinance.

It was last week in the veto session a new law banned e-cigarettes sales to those under the age of 18, but also prevented them from being classified as “tobacco products.”

The ordinance will be something the council will vote on.

Chadwick told ABC 17 News before that happens she is requesting recommendations from the Columbia Board of Health and the Substance Abuse Advisory Board to look at the issue objectively.

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