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Pima Supes: Underage vape law fails

Tucson to raise nicotine purchase age
Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-17 22:48:16-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — TUCSON, Ariz. - Pima County Supervisors voted three to two Tuesday to kill a plan to raise the legal age to buy vaping cartridges and other nicotine products.

There was supposed to be a coordinated effort by City and County to prevent teens from buying vapes in one place from simply crossing a city or county line to get them. The plan called for both to raise the nicotine purchase age from 18 to 21 so 18 to 20 year olds turned away in one jurisdiction couldn't simply cross the city-county line and but the products anyway.

Now that Pima County's out of the picture, City Council just voted to act on its own and write an independent ordinance to lower the nicotine buying age within city limits.

Worries about the ease of vaping dragging teens into nicotine addiction powered plans to raise Pima County's age to buy any sort of nicotine to 21.

But Supervisors Steve Christy and Allie Miller worried about the proposal penalizing stores that sell with no penalties for underaged youth who actually buy the products.

Supervisor Sharon Bronson was troubled by the idea that 18 years olds can vote and risk their lives in the military but not buy nicotine products.

Supporting the ordinance, Supervisor Richard Elias argued the military discourages nicotine use and said the ordinance could be adjusted later if needed.

The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association supported the plan at first, but dropped support when the plan was changed to make it much harder to revoke a retailers license to sell nicotine products if they sell to underaged buyers.

Paul Lovelis of the Community Prevention Coalition for Pima County still hopes to pass some measure to reduce nicotine use by the young.

"I think that unfortunately, some of our supervisors are still just confused about what the laws actually allow, and and also all the science that's behind the environmental strategies of reducing tobacco use, which is included to increase the tobacco sales to 21."

Retailers said they support raising the legal age to 21 but want a law that covers the whole state or Federal Law that covers the whole country.

Mark Miller represents convenience and grocery stores for the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance. He says, "We really believe we can work together with the cities and somewhat to the Health Department and come up with something that'll satisfy the needs and move the state in the right direction."

The shared ordinance would have used the County Health department for enforcement. The City may enforce through business licenses.

The plan now is for the city to have more of a proposed ordinance ready to discuss in about three weeks.