Ordinance to raise smoking age rejected in Pima County

Smoking ordinance in Tucson

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Pima County rejected a proposed ordinance to raise the age to purchase and use tobacco products for the time being.

The ordinance would raise the age to use and purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

After listening to two hours of debate, most in favor of the ordinance, the board took to heart the concerns of the business community that the proposed sanctions against violators were too punitive.

A smoke shop with multiple violations could see their business license to sell tobacco products suspended for six months or more.

“Most retailers that sell tobacco products, that represents 30 percent of their sales,” said Circle K Regional Operations Manager, Carlos Estrada. “A business that loses 30 percent of their sales, most of my stores will not survive.”

Also of concern is that store clerks and minors who buy tobacco products were not be fined or cited. The penalties would fall on the owners or management.

Dr. Francisco Garcia said he worked with dozens of stakeholders who advised the County Health Department on the penalties.

He says the idea was not to be too punitive but in the end admitted not everyone would be happy not matter what standards they used.

"There are always folks who will object to this," he said. "We will not meet everybody's needs."

However, Dr. Garcia said he will go back to meet with the stakeholders again to try to work out a compromise the board may be able to pass.

The board voted to come back at it’s Sept. 17 meeting to address the issue again.

The county’s decision threw into question a city ordinance to do the same; raise the age to 21.

The city's ordinance contained no enforcement mechanisms. All enforcement would be handled by the Pima County Health Department.

Without any enforcement on the part of the county, the city postponed revisiting the issue for 45 days.

Recent studies show nearly 68 percent of the respondents favor raising the smoking age to 21.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.