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Tobacco 21 Act passes unanimously

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Springfield City Council last night voted unanimously to raise the age to purchase tobacco in the city to 21 years old from 18.

With the passage of the Tobacco 21 Act, Springfield joins a plethora of communities nationwide that have adopted tobacco reform, including 40% of Missouri, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

“Almost 500 communities have passed Tobacco 21 in 12 states,” Councilman Craig Hosmer said before the vote.

Neighboring state Illinois passed a statewide Tobacco 21 Act that went into effect July 1, according to CounterTobacco.org.

Springfield’s ordinance also includes alternative nicotine and vapor products among those that now are no longer available to teenagers.

“To allow children to start smoking at 12, 13, even between 18 to 21, I think is a huge public health issue,” Hosmer said. “I think this is one of the most important things I’ve done on council in five years.”

Both Hosmer and Councilman Matthew Simpson said they appreciated the testimony from the local medical community last month, when doctors donned their lab coats in council chambers.

“This was a communitywide effort based around evidenced-based policy,” Simpson said.

The bill resonated with Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson, who said before the vote her father began smoking at age 15 and died from lung cancer.

“I know what the results of a lifetime of smoking is, and if I can do something to push that back to 21 instead of 18 I would do that in memory of my dad,” she said.

Immediately following the passage of Tobacco 21, council approved a companion bill that eliminates a fine of up to $1,000 for minors who purchase or possess tobacco products.

The cancellation of the fine is designed to “remove the risk of placing undue burden on youth while still allowing law enforcement individuals to confiscate tobacco products from individuals under the age of 18,” according to city documents.

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