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St. Louis may ban sale of tobacco, vaping products to anyone under age 21


ST. LOUIS * City lawmakers have taken a step toward banning the sale of tobacco and nicotine vapor products to anyone under the age of 21.

The Board of Aldermen advanced two bills on Thursday – one for tobacco, one for electronic cigarettes and vapor products – that could be passed by the board as early as next Friday.

Because Mayor Francis Slay supports the age 21 restriction, it could become law the same day.

Dionne Flowers, 2nd Ward Alderwoman and sponsor of both bills, said she’s confident that will be the case.

If so, St. Louis would join St. Louis County, Kansas City, Chicago and roughly 200 other cities across the country that have passed Tobacco 21, or T21 legislation.

Under the legislation, the city’s Department of Health can send minors into stores to test whether employees are in compliance. City police can also issue citations.

Violators would be subject to fines of $100, $250 and $500 for first, second and third offenses.

Flowers acknowledged that raising the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21 won’t prevent a determined young person from using tobacco or alternative products, but she said it’ll make a dent.

Raising the age of purchase is effective because most people get addicted to nicotine when they’re young, she said. It’s also easy for an 18-year-old high school student to buy tobacco or nicotine products legally and then introduce them to friends who are younger.

But at age 21, their social circle has changed, Flowers said.

“Every day, 3,800 youth smoke a cigarette for the first time,” she added.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that if youth smoking rates continue at their current rate, 5.6 million Americans under 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine estimates that raising the age of purchase to 21 would result in a 12 percent decrease in smoking prevalence across the country by 2100.

Koran Addo * 314-340-8305

@KoranAddo on Twitter

kaddo@post-dispatch.com

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