An item that would align city policy with recent federal law changes in raising the legal age for purchasing tobacco will be voted on by the St. Joseph City Council as an emergency ordinance Monday.
Last month, President Donald Trump signed a law raising the federal age requirement for legally purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. Now, St. Joseph could mirror the new law locally, allowing violations to be prosecuted at the municipal level.
The new rules include the sale of cigarettes, oral tobacco, cigars and vaping products with nicotine. They do allow people who are at least 18 to stock such products, similar to laws involving alcohol.
Mayor Bill McMurray, who sponsored the ordinance, said the plan was to have a first reading on the item, but council members wanted to be quick to follow the federal lead.
“I was going to go ahead and just run it through the two-reading process, but a couple of the council members expressed the opinion that since the federal law has changed, we need to change forthwith,” McMurray said.
McMurray said he agrees with the federal government’s decision to raise the age and called it a “common-sense approach.”
“It’s another level of deterrence that hopefully will help young children and adolescents avoid a habit that’s very difficult to break and can cause terrific health complications later in life,” McMurray said.
He said enforcement relies on a lot of factors, but being able to handle violations locally will mean that cases will not have to be filed federally through the FDA.
“It may not be perfect, but at least we’re sending the message to children, ‘Don’t smoke, it is dangerous, it does cause physical problems,’” McMurray said. “We’re just following what the president has done and making St. Joseph’s law the same of the federal law.”
The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, in the third-floor Council Chamber at City Hall.