New proposal would prevent 18-year-olds from purchasing tobacco in Rexburg

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REXBURG — The Rexburg City Council has approved the first reading of a proposal that will change the age people can buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 within city limits.

The Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board presented the City Council with a proposal that would make it illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 21 within the city. The proposal was approved and will be presented for a second reading during the Council’s upcoming meeting on Jan. 17.

“The high school students that make up my Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board found some information from this group called Tobacco21,” Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merill told EastIdahoNews.com. “They’ve done a bunch of research on it and they felt this would be something that’s beneficial to us here in the City of Rexburg.”

Tobacco21 is part of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation which, according to the Tobacco21 website, works to reduce “the terrible toll of smoking and tobacco use through preventative efforts.” The website asserts the vast majority of nicotine use begins in adolescence.

“That early exposure permanently alters neuro-receptors in the deepest, most ancient parts of the brain that then manifests as ongoing desire or addiction,” according to the website. “Preventing that early inoculation requires a concerted societal and political strategy including school-based education, reduced media exposure, counter-marketing, tobacco and smoke-free homes and public areas and youth access restrictions. We vigorously support all of those efforts in addition to our focus on raising the legal minimum sales age to 21.”

Merrill said he supports the change citing laws preventing people from purchasing alcohol until the age of 21. He said alcohol and tobacco laws should be similar – a point the Mayor’s Youth Advisory argued in front of the city council.

“Part of their argument was that a lot of young people at the age of 18 are influenced easily and can make bad decisions that can change the rest of their lives,” he said. “Especially if 18-year-olds can purchase tobacco products, it makes them easily available at the high school.”

Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman called the proposal a “typical nanny state approach to community problems.”

“All throughout the country, big government liberals are gravitating to this kind of policy,” Hoffman said. “It’s too bad that policymakers in Idaho are falling into this horrible public policy trap.”

Rexburg police spokesman Capt. Randy Lewis said if the proposal is ultimately passed, the police department will do their best to follow the new ordinance, but enforcing it may prove difficult.

The proposal only prohibits 18-year-olds from purchasing tobacco products within the city. It would not prohibit them from using tobacco products.

Merrill acknowledged that 18-year-olds would also still be able to travel outside of the city and purchase tobacco products.

“If just the inconvenience of having to drive to St. Anthony discourages one or two young people from making that choice and getting into that habit of smoking and things like that then it’s probably worth it,” he explained.

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