A couple months after Blue Springs did not join the list of metro area cities to pass a Tobacco 21 ordinance, it will go ahead with just electronic cigarettes.
A City Council majority voted Monday to raise the age for sale and possession of e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. The ordinance went into effect immediately.
The council voted 4-3, with Galen Ericson, Kent Edmondson, Susan Culpepper and Jerry Kaylor voting yes and Ron Fowler and Chris Lievsay and Mayor Carson Ross voting no.
Violators face a fine up to $500, up to 90 days in jail, or both.
Last month, the public safety citizens advisory board voted 5-1 against recommending the ordinance, but Culpepper said it had been a good discussion and the group had wanted to see an ordinance vaping combined with Tobacco 21 come back early next year.
“Kansas City, Independence, Leawood – all those communities around us are at 21 (for vaping),” she said. “If they can't get it here, they will have to travel a ways to get it.”
Ericson said Blue Springs School District Superintendent Paul Kinder passed along information that since the district implemented suspensions for vaping this year, 216 students have been suspended for vaping – triple that of any other reason for suspension.
Of those 216, Ericson said, 65 were in the seventh or eighth grades, and 56 of them said when talking with administrators that they received the vaping products from a sibling age 18 to 21, while the others received them from an adult they knew.
Ericson said that to him, “that's the most relevant and important fact.” He added that many health organizations have expressed their concern that vaping will simply make up for the downward trend in recent decades of youth smoking.
Ross argued, as he did against Tobacco 21, that people allowed to vote and go to war and who sometimes get married should be allowed to decide for themselves on vaping.
Also, he said, “If they don't get it in Blue Springs, they're going to get it somewhere else who's capable of doing it. We can't protect a person from themselves.”
“Government can't control everything in our lives,” Ross said. “People have to make conscious decisions.”
Blue Springs' ordinance describes an electronic cigarette as:
“Vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens, electronic cigar, electronic cigarillo, electronic pipe, electronic nicotine delivery system, vapor cartridge or other container of liquid nicotine, or any product that works by heating a liquid containing nicotine to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs.”
Fowler wondered if more education was a better path to reducing vaping by young people and noted that it's still legal for those younger than 21 to purchase by state law.
“I don't get to pick and choose which ones I like and don't like,” he said of state laws. “It should be a state issue. If you want to change it, go and lobby the state.”
Edmondson asked City Attorney Jackie Sommer if the city had the right to make its laws more restrictive than what the state has.
“In this case, yes,” Sommer said.