City of Tempe agrees to move forward with proposed tobacco ordinance

The City of Tempe is moving forward with a proposed tobacco ordinance that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 10:17 PM MST
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TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The City of Tempe is moving forward with a proposed tobacco ordinance that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. Arizona is one of eight states where you can buy tobacco if you’re 18 in certain cities, even though federal law raised the minimum age to 21 back in 2019.

Most who attended tonight’s city council meeting agreed this was a good first step to tougher tobacco policies. “Every time you walk into a bathroom, there’s someone vaping,” 20-year-old Valley resident Dante San Miguel said. “Every school bus ride, every classroom, it’s genuinely everywhere.”

San Miguel didn’t originally want to try the strawberry kiwi vape pen his 17-year-old friend gave him two years ago. But eventually, he gave in. “The next morning, I woke up with a 103 degree fever,” he said. “My whole body was shaking, my lungs were on fire. I ended up spending over a month in the hospital sick, fighting for my life.”

San Miguel is encouraged by the proposed tobacco ordinance that was presented at the Tempe City Council meeting. The ordinance will not just increase the age to purchase tobacco but put more responsibility on tobacco shops by having a $300 annual license fee with penalties for any stores caught selling to anyone underage. He’s not the only one. “I agree with the ordinance completely,” Tempe Sky High Smoke Shop General Manager Doug Jones said. “Doing the license thing on it is something that should have been done a long time ago.”

Jones says ever since the federal law went into effect in 2019, his store installed ID scanners to fight against underage customers. “Some other stores do sell to underage, and that’s just not what we are,” he said. “We’re here to keep it out of kids’ hands.”

While the proposed ordinance seeks to limit teenage tobacco consumption and would include the City of Tempe working with the Attorney General’s office and the FDA to hold Tempe tobacco stores accountable, some say this is not enough and more actions like undercover compliance checks need to be done. “Without compliance checks, we actually have no incentive with the tobacco retailers to not sell to people who are underage,” Tempe mom Nicole Olmstead said.

As the mom of a 20-year-old who is addicted to vape pens, Olmstead also wants the ordinance to include regulations restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products. That was something that was in earlier versions of the ordinance. “Flavors hook kids,” Olmstead said. “They just do. I want to make sure these products aren’t being sold to my friends’ kids, and future generations.”

There will be two future public hearings held before any vote takes place.

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