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Citizens share views on tobacco proposal

Members of the public shared their views on the Columbia City Council’s proposals to change certain tobacco ordinances Thursday.

The Board of Health held the meeting to discuss two key issues: raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and establishing e-cigarettes as a part of the current smoking ordinance referring to public places. 

Ex-officio member of the board Scott Clardy said the citizens in attendance expressed various views on the issues at hand.

“There were 26 people who were in favor of raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, without including e-cigarettes. Eight people were against that,” Clardy said. “As far as adding e-cigarettes to the current non-smoking law for Columbia, 18 were in favor and 18 were against [the proposal].”

Chairperson of the board Michael Szewczyk said the board discovered a new issue as a result of the discussion with the public.

“If the state requires you to be at least 18 to buy e-cigarettes, and you can buy e-cigarettes with nicotine in them, then should those products be at the 21 year level too?” Szewczyk said.

Clardy says 14 people supported the idea while 16 people disapproved it when the board conducted a vote of the audience.

Columbia resident Rob Long supports the legislative intent of the city council.

“Clearly we need to raise the age to 21 for anybody trying to buy a tobacco product,” Long said. “I have no idea how many years off the end of my life I have given to smoking.”

A syndicated radio talk show host named Gary Nolan does not agree with the idea of including e-cigarettes as part of the current smoking ordinance.

“If I’m told that I have to stand outside and huddle in the cold and rain to vape along with somebody who is smoking, there is no incentive for me to quit smoking,” Nolan said.

Szewczyk said the board will carefully evaluate the feedback from both sides of the public to come closer to a decision.

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