Columbia raises age to purchase tobacco to 21

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Luke Chval

No RBHS students can legally purchase tobacco in Columbia anymore. The Columbia City Council decided by a 6-1 vote to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 on Dec. 15.
Many localities have approved the increase recently, such as New York City and Evanston, Illinois; however, Columbia is the first city in Missouri.
1st Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick, who has since resigned, introduced the issue because of her background in public health. The proposal also added e-cigarettes to the city’s indoor smoking ban.
5th Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser was the only vote against the proposal. Nauser’s objections were based on personal liberty, not the belief that youths should be smoking.
“I feel that any decision by the government to prohibit adults from engaging in legal activity is an infringement on the individual and their ability to make choices,” Nauser said.
RBHS school nurse Tammy Adkins knows almost all smokers start before they turn 18, making the situation dire for communities to deter youth from smoking. Nearly nine out of ten smokers have tried cigarettes by the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“If it could maybe stop some people from smoking, that would be good,” Adkins said. “But it would be interesting to see the actual effectiveness of the law.”
Nauser, however, believes any attempts to stop people of 18 to 21 years from consuming tobacco are futile, because of the trend of smokers beginning at a much younger age.
“I think that if we want to keep kids from making poor choices then education is the most productive solution,” Nauser said. “Prohibiting an individual once they have reached the age of adulthood from engaging in the legal activity is too late to deter the behavior, especially when we consider the fact that most individuals start the bad habit of consuming tobacco products long before they reach the age of adulthood.”
Senior Bailey Washer, who is 18, is not a tobacco user but believes the law will do little to stop the amount of teen smoking in Columbia.
“The law definitely does not affect me in any way,” Washer said. “However, I think it’s not an effective rule because anyone who uses tobacco can easily just drive outside city limits to buy it.”
Along with the belief that the law strips personal freedoms, Nauser said the rule is not an effective deterrent to lower the number of teen smokers because in Missouri, it is legal for a person of any age to possess tobacco products.
“In my opinion the law that the city passed will not deter adults age 18-21 to stop the consumption of tobacco products as all they will need to do is cross the city limit and purchase the legal product,” Nauser said. “I have been told that sales at these stores has increased since the law was put into place. In addition, history has shown us that with any prohibition of a product there is always an increase in the black market sales.”
 
By Luke Chval