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Hartford City Council has strong support to raise age for sale of tobacco, vaping products to 21

Eight out of nine city council members in Hartford say they will vote in favor of raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 on Oct. 22nd. The capital city would be the first in the state to do so.

The ordinance being proposed drew a large crowd for public comment at Monday night’s city council meeting. Doctors, public health officials and teens came out to support raising the age.

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Students from Achievement First Charter School in Hartford were among the young voices pushing the raise the age for the sale of tobacco to 21 in their city.

“One of my family members was a victim of underage smoking. They were 16,” Alleisha Oates shared with News 8. “They have cancer now and are fighting.”

“It’s bad, I don’t want to see any more young kids dying, it’s serious,” Kelly Buchanan added. “What if they die from lung cancer?”

If passed, Hartford would join six other states and 350 municipalities in raising the age for the sale of tobacco and vaping products to 21.

Under 21 tobacco ban considered in Hermantown

Well over 100 people filled Hermantown City Council chambers past overflowing on Monday for an impassioned debate over banning tobacco sales to those younger than 21.

It was the first of two public hearings planned before the council will vote on the ban. The second hearing will take place Nov. 5, Mayor Wayne Boucher said.

No one argued on behalf of continuing to sell cigarettes to 18-year-olds. What divided the crowd was the question of whether a ban should include e-cigarettes — devices used for vaping. Like warring families at a wedding, they largely gathered on opposite sides of the room. Vaping supporters, wearing gray T-shirts with “Tobacco Harm Reduction Saves Lives” on the back, stood and sat across the aisle from community members whose T-shirts read “Raise the age, raise a tobacco-free generation.”

Representatives of both sides spoke fervently but listened to each other quietly and politely, as did Boucher and his four council colleagues.

Among the first of at least a score of speakers were a series of young men in gray T-shirts with similar stories. Several said they had lost family members to smoking-related cancer and believed they’d chosen a healthier alternative.

“I started smoking at age 15,” said Daniel Enders, 19. “I smoked about a pack a day, sometimes more. … Since switching over to vaping right around 18, I have saved hundreds of dollars a year — thousands. I no longer am coughing up disgusting phlegm. I no longer have shortness of breath.”

Jay Ferguson, a physician assistant in family practice at Essentia Health who spoke later, said he was dismayed by those accounts.

“My heart breaks … when they tell you that they started a nicotine habit when they were really young and then switched to another product and convinced themselves that it’s now making them healthy,” Ferguson said. “We’re listening to them saying, ‘I don’t smoke anymore, I vape.’ It’s nicotine, the most addictive substance we know of.”

But Brian Annis, owner of the Lake Effect Vapor shop on Maple Grove Road, argued that his customers were testifying about what they knew to be true.

Turning to a contingent of medical professionals, Annis said, “I have countless testimonies out there. I’m sorry that you have a problem with them saying they don’t smoke anymore because they vape, but they don’t. And it’s adding years to their lives.”

Annis also said he and others in his industry want to keep vaping out of the hands of minors and out of schools.

But that doesn’t seem to be happening. A display provided by the American Lung Association at the entryway to the chambers made the claim that one in five Hermantown High School students vapes.

Amanda Casady, manager of health promotions in Duluth for the organization, said that number came from the Minnesota Student Survey of 2016 and applied specifically to Hermantown. She said she recently had given presentations to three ninth-grade classes in Hermantown High School and could see students surreptitiously vaping as she spoke.

“To me, that’s the definition of addiction,” Casady said. “As I’m there saying, ‘Don’t do this, it’s harmful for you,’ and they’re just doing it.”

Cleveland Heights “Tobacco 21” legislation up for final approval

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — City Council could approve legislation Monday (Oct. 15) raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco, “e-cigs” and other nicotine “vape” products from 18 to 21.

If passed, it would not take effect until January 2019. The proposed “Tobacco 21” ordinance received first reading at council’s Oct. 3 meeting, along with the blessing of the Cuyahoga County Health Department, which would handle enforcement.

“It is critically important to reach young adults,” county Director of Environmental Public Health Rick Novickis told council. “We look forward to moving ahead in partnership with Cleveland Heights, much as we have with the City of Euclid.”

Novickis added that Cleveland Heights’ proposed ordinance could serve as a template for other communities.

No criminal penalties are imposed on prospective underage buyers, although sellers would be subject to civil fines, and after multiple offenses, possible suspension or revocation of permits.

“Besides the violating business owner putting the permit into jeopardy, the draft legislation allows civil monetary fines and other remedies such as injunction,” City Law Director Jim Juliano noted.

He added that while the proposed ordinance does not provide a penalty for an underage user, the business owner is “required to verify the user’s I.D. proving that he or she is 21, and a false I.D. may itself be a different violation against the user.”

Council also heard Oct. 3 from Wendy Hyde, the regional director of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation/Tobacco 21, who recalled how she got involved in the campaign five years ago.

The health teacher and adjunct professor at Baldwin Wallace University was picking up her then-13-year-old son from junior high basketball practice when he asked her about “vaping.”

“I found out that a kid was selling vapes out of his locker for $10,” Hyde said, pulling out a “nicotine-delivery device” that could be mistaken for a flash drive.

Hyde said that e-cigarettes and vapes have “changed the landscape in terms of getting a whole new generation of youth addicted to nicotine.”

These instruments can have a higher percentage of nicotine, with Hyde noting that the adult brain does not fully function until around the age of 25.

At the same time, she pointed to statistics that 95 percent of lifetime smokers started the habit before the age of 21.

And five years later, Hyde now has another 13-year-old son who regularly gets on the bus with 18-year-olds, which can lead to further exposure to tobacco and vaping.

“But he does not have the same kind of access to 21-year-olds,” Hyde added.

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After waiting to act, Barrington officials propose their own ‘Tobacco 21’ ordinance

Barrington may be joining other area communities that have increased the purchasing age of cigarettes and other tobacco products, after officials recently indicated they were open to the idea.

During a committee meeting Oct. 8, many Barrington trustees said they support a proposed change to village regulations that would raise the legal age for purchases of tobacco and other alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21 within the village’s borders.
The proposal, if approved, also would mark a shift in position for Barrington officials, who previously have said the purchasing age on tobacco products would be an issue best left for state lawmakers to decide.

But the village’s stance began to change after a bill that would have banned the sale of tobacco products to people under 21 across Illinois was vetoed in August by Gov. Bruce Rauner, said Village President Karen Darch.

“We were waiting to see if the state would pass one for the whole state,” Darch said. “When it did not, it was time to act.”

In his veto message, the Republican governor wrote that raising the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 would “push residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors or in neighboring states.”

Barrington officials could vote on their proposal and amend its ordinance on vaping and tobacco sales during a meeting on Oct. 22. The proposal comes at a time when public health officials, along with some students and educators, have urged individual municipalities in Lake County to increase the purchasing age within each town’s limits.

A Local Push to Boost the Smoking Age

Nearly 350 communities in the United States have opted to increase the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products – including e-cigarettes – from 18 to 21.

On Monday, San Antonio, Texas, became the first city in the Lone Star state and 341st locality in the U.S. to enact a Tobacco 21 ordinance, 13 years after Needham, Massachusetts, became the first town to increase its minimum smoking age in 2005. The localities that have already bumped the age limit up range from big cities like Chicago and New York City to small cities and counties like Garden City, Kansas, and Adams County, Mississippi.

“It’s kind of like a little series of wildfires spreading around the country, and I say we’re the cheerleaders,” says Dr. Rob Crane, a Ohio State University clinical professor in the family medicine department and president of the Dublin, Ohio-based Prevention Tobacco Addiction Foundation, which runs the national Tobacco 21 campaign.

At the end of December, Massachusetts will join five states – Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon – as well as Guam and Washington, D.C. in enacting a law that bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Crane says the Tobacco 21 legislation also pushes for a change in enforcement, from police to public health departments, to more effectively limit nicotine initiation.

Opponents to the age limit change say that it will hurt small businesses and local tax revenue as well as breach personal freedoms of young adults who, at the age of 18, have the ability to vote and join the military. Despite 26 municipalities already enforcing the higher age limit, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner struck down a statewide ordinance in August to raise the minimum smoking age.

“Unfortunately, this legislation will inhibit the choice of consumers while also not helping keep tobacco products out of the hands of youth,” Rauner said in his veto message, the State Journal-Register reports. “Raising the age people can purchase tobacco products will push residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors in neighboring states. Since no neighboring state has raised the age for purchasing tobacco products, local businesses and the state will see decreased revenue while public health impacts continue.”

But, Crane says, every age restriction limit, whether for alcohol or casino gambling, is set by policymakers and citizens to protect the public.

“I’m sure there are plenty of 14 year olds who can drive a car fine, but we have to decide on an arbitrary maturity level that we think best fits the likelihood of them being ready,” he says. “For those things which we think are riskier – like handgun purchase: 21; alcohol purchase: 21; being a foster parent in almost every state is 21; casino gambling in almost every state is 21 – it’s a thoughtful attempt to pair responsibility with increasing maturity, and I think every parent gets that.”