City considers raising legal age for tobacco
As a college town, the new rule could majorly affect Columbia.
Sep. 24, 2014
Within a few weeks, people under the age of 21 may no longer be able to legally purchase tobacco in Columbia.
First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick proposed “Tobacco 21” to the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission. By doing so, she said she hopes to prevent deaths caused by smoking.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every five deaths in the United States is rooted in smoking cigarettes.
“Tobacco is the leading cause of death in the nation,” Chadwick said. “It’ll kill about 7,500 Columbians.”
Tobacco Free Missouri is an organization which has been working on “Tobacco 21” since February. The coalition was initiated by a school member worried about the effects of tobacco in schools, Chadwick said.
Allowing 18-year-olds access to cigarettes means there’s a higher chance that they could buy and sell tobacco to younger students at their high school, said Kevin Everett, associate professor in family and community medicine.
“Columbia Public Schools will benefit because there will be very few, if any, 21 year olds in their system,” Everett said. “There shouldn’t be any kids having or possessing tobacco.”
“Tobacco 21” has gained support from health professions and school systems, along with the community. Everett said a major public advantage would be cutting health care costs.
The United States spends “more than $289 billion a year, including at least $133 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity,” according to the CDC.
Everett said since Columbia is a college town, banning cigarettes for people under the age of 21 would significantly lower the amount of smokers, providing a cleaner and safer community.
Restricting who can purchase cigarettes would negatively affect sales tax, though not by much, Chadwick said.
“The economic research shows 18 to 21-year-olds only purchase 2 percent of tobacco sales,” Chadwick said. “We are making a minuscule change in the tax revenue.”
Currently, Missouri only taxes 17 cents per pack, compared to the national average of $1.26, said Chadwick.
Sophomore Blake Hustedt has smoked cigarettes since he was 16 years old. As most of his family smokes cigarettes, he said he believes adults should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding the issue.
Hustedt said if 18-year-olds are allowed to go to war, they should be allowed to smoke, too.
“My grandpa has told me stories about the war and his post-traumatic stress disorder, and he coped with that through smoking cigarettes,” Hustedt said.
Chadwick also requested that electronic cigarette use be banned indoors as part of “Tobacco 21.” This would put similar restrictions to that of Missouri’s Clean Indoor Air Law, which bans smoking in “any enclosed indoor area used by the general public or serving as a place of work,” according to the Bureau of Community Health and Wellness Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program.
“Tobacco 21” isn’t the only way government officials in Missouri have attempted to limit the use of tobacco. Senate Bill 841, introduced by state Sen. Jay Wasson, R-Nixa, which bans electronic cigarette use for people under the age of 18, passed recently.
Wasson said that because there are so many unknown variables about electronic cigarettes, it could take the Food and Drug Administration several years before passing laws preventing minors from using them. Therefore, he took Missouri’s matters into his own hands.
“The one thing everybody agrees on is that they are harmful because they have nicotine in them,” Wasson said. “We don’t want our minors getting hooked on nicotine.”