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Columbia councilwoman proposes raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes

Sudipto Sarkar
A report says one in four US high schoolers smoke first cigarettes before turning 18.

The “idea” of a new anti-smoking ordinance was introduced at a Columbia city council meeting Monday. Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick proposed raising the sale age of tobacco to 21. The current age is 18. Chadwick said 90% of smokers began smoking at age 18 or younger. She said those who smoked underage received their cigarettes from 18 to 20 year olds.

“Missouri has the most laxed tobacco tax in all of the states, charging only 17 cents per pack and the average age of initiation of smoking in Boone County is 12.67 years,” Chadwick said.

Chadwick says raising the age limit would be more effective than raising cigarette taxes in reducing the rate of underage smoking. Chadwick says Tobacco Free Columbia, the coalition that is working on this ordinance, hopes to see legislation to increase the tobacco sale age to 21.

Over 30 cities have passed laws raising the cigarette purchasing age.

“The Missouri State Charter prohibits municipalities from increasing the tobacco tax, but we can increase the age purchase,” Chadwick says.

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