SuperTalk Mississippi

New City Rule Could Prevent Smoking Until You Can Drink

NATCHEZ, Miss. — The Adams County Board of Supervisors is making plans for banning stores in its jurisdiction from selling cigarettes to people under age 21. State law allows tobacco products to be sold to people age 18 or older.   By John Mott Coffey 

The board on Monday voted to notify the public and have a hearing on its proposal to ban tobacco sales to those not at least 21. County board President Mike Lazarus said Adams County would be the first in Mississippi to impose this restriction.

At least 115 localities in nine states have raised the tobacco-sale age to 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national advocacy group. Most of the towns and counties are in Massachusetts and New Jersey. New York City is the largest to have implemented this anti-smoking measure. Hawaii last year became the first state to ban tobacco sales to young people under 21. In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie – who’s running for president — last month vetoed a bill to raise the age to 21.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors approved its anti-tobacco proposal at Lazarus’ request with little discussion at the tail end of its Monday meeting. A county board-adopted ordinance increasing the tobacco-sale age to 21 would presumably just be for stores outside Natchez and not be enforceable inside the city.

Lazarus said banning tobacco sales to 18-to-20-year-olds could have a ripple effect to discourage them from sharing cigarettes with younger teens.

National data show that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. A March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine concluded that raising the tobacco age to 21 would significantly reduce smoking among youth and young adults and have other health benefits.

In Mississippi, stores caught selling cigarettes to minors can be fined $50 for first offenses. Repeat offenders face stiffer fines and losing their state license to sell tobacco products.

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