CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — The age limit to purchase tobacco and vaping products in Carl Junction could rise from 18 to 21 in two weeks if the City Council approves a change in the local ordinance at its Nov. 19 regular meeting.
Members voted unanimously Tuesday night to put the change on the agenda for final consideration at their next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Mayor Mark Powers on Oct. 15 first proposed the change to the existing city ordinance that prohibits sale of tobacco and electronic cigarettes and vaping material to anyone under 18.
Powers asked at that time that council members talk to people in their wards and see what they thought about such a change.
The question at Tuesday night’s meeting was whether to put the change up for a final vote on Nov. 19.
The discussion indicated that five of the eight members — Rick Flinn, Don Marshall, Richard Zaccardelli, Roger Spencer and Randy Hutcheson — supported the change; two others — Mike Burns and Mark Satterlee — were leaning against a change; and one, LaDonna Allen, was firmly opposed.
“I think it’s a feel-good ordinance, to be honest,” Allen told the board. “I think we’d feel good about doing something, but it’s not a do-good ordinance. I don’t think it will do any good. I think it’s going to make us feel better about it, but I don’t think it’s going to accomplish anything, and it’s a slippery slope. If people vote for it, I’ll stick with it as city policy, I’ll support the city’s stand, but I will never vote to take away someone's rights.”
Allen said she thinks the age of purchase should be raised at the state level, not at the local level.
She said she talked to people who favored the city making the change, but the majority of people she talked to didn’t think it was the city’s business.
Vote of the people
The council members leaning against the proposal said they would prefer to let the people of Carl Junction vote on it in a general election.
Powers said he didn’t favor such a vote because voter turnout, except at the presidential elections every four years, is typically low.
Steve Lawver, city administrator, said turnout at the last city election was higher than at many elections, but it was still only about 15 percent.
“That’s what I’m saying,” Powers said. “You have it on the ballot, people vote and 15 percent of the people decide.”
Satterlee said he still preferred to let the public vote on the issue.
“If we put an ordinance out and we have a consensus that we’re all buying into it, I’ll support it. But I would rather see the community as a whole say,” he said.
Burns asked about enforcement of the current ordinance.
Police Chief Delmar Haase said it doesn’t happen every day, but his officers have cited people for underage purchase of tobacco products.
Hutcheson said he opposed the proposal when it was first brought up, but he’s changed his mind after some research.
“I’m in favor of anything that would prevent someone from picking up a cigarette or vaping at such a young age,” he said.
He said the information he read indicated that an ordinance like this one could at least make it more difficult for younger people to buy tobacco and vaping products, and that may be enough to prevent at least some from becoming addicted.
Spencer, Flinn, Marshall and Zaccardelli all said they firmly favor the change proposed by Powers.
“You said at the last meeting we should go out and talk to the people in our neighborhood, and I did,” Spencer said to Powers. “They’re all for it. They’re all for raising it to the age of 21.”
Flinn read a letter he received from a Joplin pediatrician who lives in Carl Junction who talked about the addictive nature of nicotine and vaping material for younger people.
Marshall said he doesn’t expect 100 percent compliance with any new ordinance, but that "if you can save one life. I think it’s worth it."
Zaccardelli said he spoke to people who are rehabilitating from lung injuries from smoking.
“All the people down at the rehab center at Freeman Hospital say raise it,” Zaccardelli said.