NEWTON — On the heels of a second death attributed to vaping products in Kansas announced this week, the Newton City Commission took action on a request from high school students this summer to move the legal age of purchase for tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21.
“When I first came here with three other students, we all understood that any change could be a good change,” said Eli Reddington, president of STAND at Newton High School. “We have been seeing this problem in Newton High School, and it is everywhere. We are social media. ... Any change that can help stop someone from getting addicted to nicotine is a good change.”
“My guess is in the health industry we are going to see the effects of this from our youth,” said Val Gleason, president and CEO of Newton Medical Center. “Their lung damage is severe. ... We don't know if it is reversible, and it is serious.”
The ordinance will make the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, 21. The ordinance will be effective Jan. 1, 2020.
Newton may have became the 500th city or county to pass such an ordinance, according to a t21.org representative who was at the meeting. A motion by Glen Davis seconded by Leroy Koehn passed unanimously, and the crowd in attendance broke out in applause.
“This is a place where adults can act in an affirmative manner towards our youth,” Gleason said.
The delayed effective day is in place to give city staff time to make administrative changes.
Also within the ordinance is required signage by retailers, training for retailers and employees, a ban on most self service displays and a new retailer license.
Under the ordinance, retailers will be subject to a $400 licensing fee. There will be two compliance checks per year, which can include a person between 18 and 20 years old attempting to purchase tobacco products or e-cigarette products.
“Possession is decriminalized,” said city attorney Chris Tolle. “There is no infraction on the book. ... That will still be a state statute, but it will not be a local ordinance.”
Retailers would be subject to fines, which escalate over time with repeated infractions. They can, under the ordinance, lose their license to sell tobacco and e-cigarettes.
Employees are subject to noncriminal offenses that can result in community service or education classes.
Persons older than 21 supplying minors with tobacco products or e-cigarettes would be subject to a $50 infraction.