Tucson working ordinance to ban sale of tobacco, vaping products to anyone under 21 years old

Curbing teen smoking

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Tucson City Council will begin the debate on an ordinance which would ban the sale of tobacco and vaping products to anyone under the age of 21.

Right now, the law is 18 years of age.

The purpose of the ordinance, according to supporters, is to keep the tobacco products out of the hands of young teens, ages 13 and above.

"This is basically a deterrent," said Ward II Council member Paul Cunningham, one of the sponsors of the proposed ordinance. "A prevention measure for kids starting at a young age."

Studies show most smokers start at a very young age especially when cigarettes are made readily available by someone 18 or over.

High School seniors, who are legal to buy, often socialize with younger, underclassmen.

The Moon Smoke Shop of 4th Avenue, just down the street from Tucson High School, confirms that.

"A lot of them are seniors and they're 18," said Joe, who works in the shop. "They're old enough now."

He says they turn away young people all the time though.

"You have to be 18 to enter the shop," he said. "If you're accompanied by minors outside, we'll stop you and say we can't make the sale."

A general conversation with a number of smokers seems to confirm the younger age theory.

Javier, who recently turned 46, says he "started smoking cigarettes at 12 years of age."  He says he's not ready to quit yet but maybe someday.

Jorge Mendoza said he started at 16 but adds he would never had started if all of his friends did not smoke.

says he "started smoking at 14 regularly and I smoked for a good 20 years."

The movement to raise the smoking age was started by Tobacco21.org in 1996 and has notched 350 cities and six states.

Cunningham says Tucson is following that lead.

"This is actually kid driven," he said. "So it's a youth movement."

The city is beginning the process which could take six months to a year from start to finish and there are no assurances it will pass, although Cunningham is on board.

"It actually started with kids and that's why my response to it was really positive," he said.

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