That nefarious weed – tobacco – is bracing for a hit from the Leawood City Council.
In a work session before the council’s regular meeting Monday night, council members and others discussed potential fines and other consequences for retailers and their clerks who are caught selling tobacco to those younger than 21. The measure is dubbed the Tobacco 21 Initiative. This was the second work session on the measure.
Those present at the work session included Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn, City Attorney Patty Bennett, Ward 1 Councilwoman Debra Filla, Ward 1 Councilman Andrew Osman, Ward 2 Councilman Jim Rawlings, Ward 3 Councilman Chuck Sipple, Ward 4 Councilman James Azeltine, Ward 4 Councilwoman Julie Cain, Leawood Police Chief Troy Rettig and several others.
Bennett had conducted research on other area municipalities’ tobacco ordinances and presented her findings. Session participants discussed tobacco laws as of May 17 in Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park and Prairie Village and considered which elements of those ordinances they might want to include in Leawood’s new ordinance.
A central theme was whether to write the new Leawood ordinance to include graduated fines for repeat offenders, with a maximum fine of $1,000 for retailers who sell tobacco products to underage youths. Graduated fines would mandate court appearances for repeated violations, Bennett said.
Most in attendance favored this proposal, though some expressed concern about the further workload it would impose on the courts. Whether to include e-cigarettes and other vapor products that include liquid nicotine also was discussed, as was mandatory tobacco-education programs for offenders, and participants largely favored including these stipulations in the new ordinance.
Leawood’s current ordinance sets the minimum age at 18 to possess or buy tobacco products, including e-cigarettes that contain nicotine; imposes a $25 fine for underage youths who by tobacco products and a mandatory court appearance of an offending youth’s parent or guardian; and imposes a minimum $200 fine for illegal sale of tobacco products.
Dunn advocated a three-month period after a new ordinance is passed before enforcement begins, in order to give retailers adequate notice of the coming ordinance and give them time to prepare for it.
The session was intended as preparation for considering a proposed ordinance at the council’s June 20 meeting. If the council were to pass a new ordinance at that meeting, it would go into effect on Oct. 1.