Prairie Village takes first step toward raising tobacco purchase age to 21

Jay Senter - February 17, 2016 7:14 am


The Prairie Village City Council on Tuesday directed staff to begin drafting language for an ordinance that would raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco in the city to 21, a move encouraged by the Healthy KC partnership and the Shawnee Mission School District.

Should the council approve the ordinance in the coming months, it would make Prairie Village the first northeast Johnson County municipality to raise its tobacco purchase age.

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Representatives from the Health Care Foundation of Kansas City and the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, part of the Healthy KC partnership, were on hand at Tuesday’s meeting to lobby for the move. Jessica Hembree of the Health Care Foundation told the council that research shows 95 percent of smokers take up cigarettes and other tobacco products before they hit the age of 21. Though most kids try their first cigarette at age 12, it isn’t until their later teen years that they become habitual smokers.

“Between 16 and 21 is where experimentation turns into addiction,” Hembree said. “[Researchers] have determined that [raising the purchase age to] 21 is the sweet spot for public health benefit.”

As a result of Healthy KC’s advocacy, Kansas City, Mo., Kansas City, Kan., Olathe, Independence and Gladstone have all adopted measure to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21 over the past year. In November, the Shawnee Mission Board of Education lent its support to the effort, adopting a position statement encouraging the 14 cities it serves to take action.

Until Tuesday, however, none of the Shawnee Mission area cities had bitten. Mission declined to take up the issue in December. Shawnee passed on initial efforts. Merriam and Roeland Park may discuss it in the future. But in Prairie Village, the council was largely in support of the initiative, suggesting it wanted to be on the leading edge of a movement. Ward 5 Councilor Dan Runion cast the only vote against the resolution directing staff to craft an ordinance.

The ordinance language that Prairie Village will draft will apply to all tobacco products as well as to e-cigarettes. There are currently eight retail locations in Prairie Village licensed to sell tobacco products that would be affected by the new ordinance:

  • Shell – 3901 Tomahawk Road
  • Hen House – 6950 Mission
  • Hen House – 4050 W. 83rd Street
  • Hy-Vee Food & Drug – 7620 State Line Road
  • Hy-Vee Gas – 7720 State Line Road
  • Shell – 8120 Mission Road
  • Rimann Liquor – 3917 Prairie Lane
  • Walgreens – 4016 W. 95th Street

The language in the new ordinance would be restricted to the sale of products, so it will still be legal for people age 18 and older to possess tobacco and vaping products within the city.

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