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Jefferson City Council approves Tobacco 21 ordinance

The new law bans the sale of tobacco and vaping products to anyone under 21, but will still let people between the ages of 18 and 20 possess tobacco products. (File)

If you are younger than 21 years of age you can no longer buy tobacco products legally in Jefferson City.

On Monday evening, the council adopted the ordinance by a 6-4 vote, raising the minimum age from 18 to 21. The new law was made effective immediately.

The Capital City became the 11th Missouri community to adopt a Tobacco 21 ordinance. The law bans the sale of tobacco and vaping products to anyone under 21, but will still let people between the ages of 18 and 20 possess tobacco products.

A handful of residents and even a few members of the board voiced their opinions, taking both sides of the issue during Monday night's meeting.

Opponents argued the law would hurt businesses, and questioned how to stop an 18-year-old from going to the town over where it is again legal for him or her to purchase tobacco.

Supporters of the new policy said the ordinance discourages smoking by youth and dramatically reduces the chance someone will become a smoker later in life.

According to the American Lung Association, 81 percent of adult smokers start smoking before they turn 21, and underage tobacco users typically get their supply from smokers between the ages of 18 and 21.

The ordinance said check-ups will be conducted on local businesses to make sure they are following the new rules. In 2014, Columbia became the first city in the Show Me State to pass a Tobacco 21 law.

Board member Michael Trapp said Jefferson City's funded enforcement should prove effective.

"You can do a random poll or even take a certain percentage of vendors and make sure they're compliant with the law," Trapp said. "If you do that, you're going to get a much better enforcement and a more impactful piece of legislation."

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