Efforts to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products have hit another roadblock in the Capital City.
Monday, the Jefferson City Council was set to vote on Tobacco 21. It is a measure that would raise the legal age to buy tobacco products, including e-Cigarettes, from 18 to 21. But it would not prohibit 18 to 20-year-olds from possessing tobacco products.
However, the council voted to push back its decision until April since the bill’s sponsor, Carlos Graham, was not at the meeting. The decision is expected to be a very close vote.
Tobacco 21 efforts have been ongoing for more than a year in Jefferson City. Last July, the measure died in the city’s Public Safety Committee when it failed to overcome a tie vote.
Monday, many members of the public spoke with strong opinions on the bill.
One in opposition, who owns several convenience stores in town, said it would drive business away and would not be fair since only the seller would be punished for selling to those under 21.
But multiple people spoke in support, including a doctor, the president of Capital Region Medical Center and a representative of the American Heart Association.
“The initiation rate here, meaning when kids start to smoke, is 13.7 so almost age 14,” Karen Englert with the American Heart Association said. “And so if we can kind of put that gap in between 14 and 21, we are eliminating that social source. We’re making it so much harder for our kids to have access to tobacco products.”
Columbia was the first city in Missouri to pass Tobacco 21 in December 2014. Since then, nine other cities or counties have followed suit, including St. Louis and Kansas City.