Mission to look into restricting tobacco access; council remains split on creating Tobacco 21 ordinance

Mission is considering whether to join other northeast Johnson County cities in passing a Tobacco 21 ordinance — though the idea has gotten push back from some members of the council. Photo used under a Creative Commons license.

Mission councilmembers remained split once again on the creation of a Tobacco 21 ordinance. Councilmembers on Wednesday argued between the health effects of tobacco use versus the civil liberties of legal adults to purchase tobacco products.

A Tobacco 21 ordinance would raise the legal purchasing age of tobacco products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 in the city of Mission. Several other cities in Kansas have passed similar ordinances, including Prairie Village, Westwood, Leawood and Roeland Park.

Ultimately, the council has decided to wait and see what the Kansas Supreme Court decides regarding a lawsuit in Topeka.

Nick Schlossmacher
Mission councilmember Nick Schlossmacher said Tobacco 21 restricts civil liberties of legal adults ages 18-20.

Mission councilmembers Nick Schlossmacher, Pat Quinn and Arcie Rothrock said they think a Tobacco 21 ordinance targets legal adults of a specific age group (18-20).

“I still think the age restrictions and stuff are not the right way to go about trying to really make a dent in this problem,” Schlossmacher said. “I’m just going to keep hoping that we can look at other options here.”

Councilmembers Ken Davis, Sollie Flora and Hillary Parker Thomas expressed their continued support for Tobacco 21. The issue is especially important to Davis, who introduced the ordinance in December, because he has dealt with lung complications in the past.

“The idea that you’re free to do what you want…is not the issue, in my mind,” Davis said. “The issue, in my mind, is that it’s the accessibility to the products in our city from the businesses that sell tobacco products and making that access limited to those that are 21 and over. It’s not the use of, but it’s the access to the purchase of.”

Mission councilmember Ken Davis, who introduced the Tobacco 21 ordinance a few months ago, said the goal is to raise the legal purchasing age of tobacco products from 18 to 21.

While the Mission councilmembers remain resolute in their positions, all agreed that — regardless of the Tobacco 21 case before the Kansas Supreme Court — excessive tobacco use is a health problem for all age groups. Councilmember Pat Quinn, whose wife smokes and whose grandson vapes, said he was concerned for the health of all age groups.

As such, the council has asked city staff in the meantime to come up with multiple options — including the creation of a Tobacco 21 ordinance — to prevent and reduce or at least regulate tobacco use and purchase among all age groups in the city, especially youth and young adults.

Some of the options on the table include raising sales taxes on tobacco, banning tobacco products in the whole city (this option didn’t get much favor from the council) and creating a moratorium on vape shops (similar to what Shawnee is doing).

The council is also considering asking the Mission businesses currently selling tobacco products to voluntarily stop selling those products. These businesses include QuikTrip, HyVee, HyVee Gas, Dollar General and BP.

The council will revisit the Tobacco 21 issue after staff has looked into options and the Kansas Supreme Court has announced its decision on the Topeka case. In that case, two Topeka businesses had filed a lawsuit in early 2018 against the city’s Tobacco 21 ordinance, arguing that it violated the Kansas Constitution. The city of Topeka appealed the case to the Kansas Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments April 1 regarding the Tobacco 21 lawsuit.