Westwood City Council looks to join the push to raise age for tobacco and e-cigarette purchase to 21

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The Westwood City Council Thursday directed staff to prepare an ordinance that would restrict tobacco sales and e-cigarettes in the city to those 21 and over.

The move came after a presentation by Scott Hall of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce representing the Healthy KC alliance. Prairie Village already has raised the age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21 along with Westwood Hills, Leawood, Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe and both Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Mission and Merriam declined to adopt the change.

The initiative raises the age to purchase from 18 to 21, but does not raise the age for possession or use.

“I am supportive of it,” said Westwood Councilor David Waters. He noted that it is also one of the primary initiatives of the KU Cancer Center which is located in Westwood.

Councilor Margaret Bowen said she would like to see an exemption for active military personnel to the age restriction.

The Healthy KC presentation says 95 percent of current smokers started before they were 21 and those who had a first cigarette by 18 are twice as likely to become lifelong smokers as those have have not tried it by 21. Raising the age to purchase reduces the number who start smoking early, the alliance says.

The initiative has the support of the Shawnee Mission School District. Hall said Chamber member businesses support the move because of the cost of having smokers in their workforce.