PAOLA — Paola has now joined the more than 20 other cities across Kansas and hundreds across the country that have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
Paola City Council members approved the change during their council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10, as part of the city’s annual adoption of the Uniform Public Offense Code (UPOC).
The UPOC was amended to state that is unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or attempt to purchase cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, liquid nicotine or tobacco products in any form.
It is still lawful for anyone 18 years old or older to possess cigarettes or tobacco products, according to the approved ordinance.
The ordinance also makes it a crime to sell, give or furnish cigarettes or tobacco products to people under the age of 21, with a minimum fine of $200 being listed as the penalty.
The ordinance will go into effect upon publication in the Sept. 18 edition of The Miami County Republic.
Several council members expressed their support of the new regulations.
Councilman Dave Smail, who is the former police chief, said he hopes this will be a deterrent to youths, especially regarding electronic cigarettes.
Councilman Aaron Nickelson agreed and added that vaping has become an epidemic in the schools.
Council member Leigh House said she has heard that 18-year-old students at the high school are purchasing the vaping products and selling them to younger students. She expressed optimism that this ordinance will help curtail that.
“Vaping is definitely a huge problem,” City Manager Jay Wieland said.
Paola Police Chief Don Poore said the police department plans to draft a letter explaining the changes, and officers will then deliver the letter to local businesses that sell tobacco products.
Ann Chrisman, owner of Vapor & More in Paola, said the changes will cause her to lose some business, but it will be more of an inconvenience than anything else. Her staff already makes sure young customers show identification before making purchases, and they will just start checking for age 21 instead of 18, Chrisman said.
Her bigger concern is the recent news reports that the Trump administration is preparing to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
Chrisman said she believes that if young men are required to register with Selective Service at age 18 and may be called upon to serve their country, they should be given the freedom to purchase tobacco products if they so choose.