PARKVILLE, Mo. — The City of Parkville joined the growing number of communities across the country making it illegal for those under 21 years of age to purchase tobacco products, as well as related alternative nicotine and vaping products.
At the Tuesday, Oct. 3 regular meeting, the Parkville Board of Aldermen unanimously passed the final reading of the new ordinance, which regulates the sale of tobacco products, but not the possession of those products. The first reading was approved at the Sept. 19 meeting, after a presentation by representatives from the Tobacco 21 Kansas City group.
Parkville joins Northland communities such as Gladstone and Liberty, with the City of Kansas City passing a Tobacco 21 ordinance in 2015. Scott Hall with the Kansas City Chamber spoke, along with Dr. Ed Ellerbeck from the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
“It’s the KC Chamber’s belief that healthy communities will grow the fastest, going forward,” Hall said. “Tobacco cessation and
prevention efforts like Tobacco 21 are a testament to an effective way to drive toward that community health.”
Hall cited statistics from Tobacco 21 KC stating that cigarettes are the “only consumer product that when used as intended kill up to one-third of regular users.”
Ellerbeck said that in 2015, more than 31 percent of Missouri youth reported using tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes. Because teens’ neural pathways are still in formation, the younger a teen starts smoking the more likely they are to become addicted. Those who try tobacco later in life are less likely to continue the habit, he said.
Representatives from Tri-County Mental Health Services and Mosaic Lifecare were on hand for the presentation, as were students from Park University and the Park Hill School District. A junior at Park Hill South High School, Anya Jeffries said she has personally seen the effects of tobacco products at school.
“At school I’ve walked into bathrooms and seen people vaping, and in janitor closets and things like that,” she said. “A big reason why is a large number of seniors are 18, and they’re able to buy them and distribute them to other students.”
Jeffries said a change in the tobacco laws in Parkville would cut off this supply line.
Electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices are also designed to be hidden, Hall said. They can be masked as markers, USB drives, strings on a hooded sweatshirt and many other items. This makes them popular to sneak into schools.
Additionally, Ellerbeck noted that electronic cigarette products are entirely unregulated, so it’s difficult to tell what people may be inhaling and in what quantities.
“It’s a wild west show out there,” Ellerbeck said of the electronic cigarette industry.
Parkville alderman Greg Wylie asked if there is a push to restrict consumption, not just the purchase of tobacco products.
“The point of sale transaction, by the data, proves to be the pinch point here,” Hall said. “Seniors in high school give cigarettes to sophomores, but you can choke off that pipeline because 21-year-olds don’t hang out with 16-year-olds.”
Additionally, the burden of enforcement of criminalization of possession of tobacco products by minors would be high. Hall also added that restricting possession of tobacco products could become “a slippery slope.”