For now, Blue Springs is not joining the long list of metro area cities to pass a Tobacco 21 ordinance.
A City Council majority voted Monday against an ordinance to raise the legal age to sell and buy tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21.
Mayor Carson Ross joined Council Members Kent Edmonson, Chris Lievsay and Ron Fowler in voting no. Council Members Susan Culpepper, Galen Ericson and Jerry Kaylor voted yes. Ericson had brought up discussion of the ordinance last month.
The council had no discussion about the ordinance Monday before the vote. All appeared to have said their piece at the Aug. 5 meeting when Culpepper pressed on passing Tobacco 21 and the council asked staff to come back with a possible ordinance.
Culpepper said it's a matter of reducing smoking in those most susceptible to start.
“If students between 18 and 21 they do not start smoking at that age,” she said, referring to current research, “they're less likely to smoke as adults. That's a fact.”
“The social multiplier could amplify (the) effect of Tobacco 21.”
Culpepper relayed her own experience.
“I quit smoking 30 years before I had surgery to remove part of my lung,” adding that she's known smokers who started as adolescents, got addicted and then couldn't stop when they tried, even with health issues. “It doesn't leave your body.”
Ross said he had not smoked in 40 years and acknowledged that reformed smokers can often be the worst critics, but he had “philosophical and personal reasons.”
Relating a personal story, Ross remembered a friend he fought alongside in Vietnam who was fatally shot a few feet from him
“Both of us smoked, as did most of our unit,” which was virtually all under 21, he said. “He would be denied the right to purchase, even though it's legal to use. I find it difficult to digest.”
“If government entities don't want it, make it illegal, as with alcohol, and while doing so include serving in the military with the possibility of being killed.”
Ross said it would be a backhanded approach to government overreach. He said places don't legislate the amount of food an overweight person can purchase at the grocery store or order at a restaurant, because that would be overreach.
Culpepper said Tobacco 21 ordinances are about keeping preventing large numbers of people from dying too early.
“We have to start somewhere,” she said.
Lievsay said it seemed odd to raise the legal age for sale and purchase but not to use.
“From a practical standpoint, it seems like an odd dichotomy there,” he said.
“Let's just let the state take care of it,” Fowler said, “or the federal government.”