The Tobacco 21 movement has found its first supporter in Alaska, as the Sitka City Assembly recently passed the second reading of an ordinance that will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and tobacco alternative products from 18 to 21-years-old.
Prior to the ordinance’s passage, the council voted to move the implementation date from Oct. 1 to Aug. 22 so that the increase aligns with the start of the school year. Many supporters of increases such as these cite that persons under 18-years-old often get tobacco products from those just over 18, so passing pushing up the effective date would create more of a gap between students and those who can purchase tobacco products. That amendment passed by a 4-3 vote.
The proposal did not sail through the assembly’s meeting, however, with the seven-member group an hour in debate of the proposal, questioning everything from enforcement to the ethics of telling adults that they are not allowed to purchase an otherwise legal product. Even with all the debate and concerns, the assembly passed the amended increase by a 6-1 vote.
Retailers or anyone who distributes tobacco to a person under 21-years-old in violation of the ordinance will face a fine of $300 for a first time offense, $600 for a second violation, while any subsequent violations come with a $1,000 fine.
Sitka is home to just under 9,000 residents.