The Merriam City Council unanimously requested an ordinance be prepared that would ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, placing the city on path to becoming the 20th local community to adopt the measure.
The Council decided Monday to move forward with participating in what’s called the Tobacco 21 initiative after hearing from advocates in the healthcare industry and receiving no opposition from businesses that sell tobacco products.
The Tobacco 21|KC effort was launched by Healthy KC and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce to encourage cities in the metropolitan area to increase the minimum age of sale and purchase of tobacco products, e-cigarettes, vapor products, and paraphernalia from 18 to 21.
At this point, 19 communities, including seven in Johnson County, have approved the measure.
Last month, the Roeland Park Council approved drafting an ordinance to participate in the initiative. Prairie Village, Leawood, Mission Woods and Overland Park are among those who have passed the measure. Fairway and Gardner have rejected it.
Two healthcare advocates addressed the Merriam Council in favor of the legislation.
“We believe Tobacco 21 is important to the long-term health of our community,” said Patty Mansur of the REACH Healthcare Foundation based in Overland Park. “We know the easiest way to quit smoking is to never start.”
Susan Geary, pulmonary coordinator at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, said it’s a critical healthcare initiative.
“I’ve watched people die of lung cancer, it’s a pretty horrific death,” she said. “If we can retard the initiation of the habit, we have better long-term results.”