SMITHVILLE — Aldermen passed the first reading of the Tobacco 21 Initiative 4-2 and will voted on again for a final decision Monday, May 20.
While the first reading passed, two dissenting votes came from Ward 1. Both Melissa Wilson and Josh Hurlbert voted against the initiative.
Wilson said she thinks legal purchasing age for tobacco should be addressed at the state level. Even if Smithville passes the ordinance, which would change the legal purchasing age of tobacco to 21 in the city, those aged 18 could drive to a bordering community and still legally purchase tobacco products.
Hurlbert said the Tobacco 21 effort is an ineffective initiative, having little impact on the increase in vaping among youth. He disagreed with the policy, saying it punishes the wrong people, namely the shop owner. Tobacco sellers in Smithville would be fined under the change if caught selling tobacco products to someone younger than the purchasing age.
Alderman Jeff Bloemker agreed shopkeepers have a lot going on already in a shop and sympathized with their situation in the long run. However, he said he was in support of the initiative to help address vaping now.
“I think we owe it to our constituents,” Alderman Marvin Atkins said, voicing support. He said it is the board’s responsibility to get the “vaping crisis” under control in the community.