Mission City Council does not get behind request from school district to raise age on tobacco sales

A proposal to raise the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 in northeast Johnson County communities did not get the support of the Mission City Council.

Both Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., passed ordinances last month to raise the legal age for purchase to 21. In late November, the Shawnee Mission School Board passed a resolution supporting the changes in the law and asking each of the 14 cities in the school district to increase the age to buy tobacco.

When the prospect of raising the age was brought to a Mission council committee for discussion Wednesday, it was dispatched of rather quickly.

Councilor Pat Quinn was among the most outspoken of the council opposing a change.

“I don’t like it,” Quinn said. “At 18 years of age (they) can go in the service…defend the country. This isn’t going to stop them.”

At another point in the discussion, Quinn said, “So, a 19-year-old kid comes back from Iraq and goes in to buy smokes…no way.”

Councilor Suzie Gibbs said she agreed with Quinn. “Do you think that’s going to work?” Gibbs asked when the proposed change was first outlined.

Mission has six retail outlets that sell tobacco products. The proposal would make it illegal to sell to anyone under 21 but possession and consumption would still be legal, the council was told. All Shawnee Mission school campuses are tobacco free.

The Healthy KC alliance says that the primary cigarette source for underage smokers is their 18 to 20 year old peers and that more than 95 percent of long-term smokers start before age 21. The alliance suggests that raising the age to purchase has shown a strong reduction in tobacco use by teens where such measures have been instituted.