KC’s Public Safety Committee to decide whether to raise smoking age to 21

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City's Public Safety Committee will decide on Wednesday if the smoking age should be raised to 21. It’s a move proponents of the measure say many other communities have had success with, and now city staff is encouraging the KC Council to approve the higher smoking age.

The Tobacco 21 KC Movement has been spearheaded locally by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Institute of Medicine has said 90 percent of smokers have their first cigarette before age 19.

Paul Baker said he started smoking at age 16, and wishes he hadn’t.

“Now I’m 25 years and I’m smoking a pack a day, and I feel like the wait might encourage kids that are at that age, that are so influential maybe have a reason not to do it right off the bat,” Baker said.

But others feel the Council should butt out, and leave the decision in the hands of teens and their parents.

“You can go to jail, you can suffer capital punishment, you can get married, you can fight for your country and hold a powerful weapon in your hands, but you can’t smoke a cigarette?” said Patrick Miller.

The Institute of Medicine says more than 90-percent of all smokers tried their first cigarette before the age of 19. The American Journal of Public Health says 18 to 20 year olds only account for 2-percent of all tobacco sales, but they are providing 90-percent of the cigarette and tobacco supply to younger kids.

The ordinance up for a vote Wednesday would also change the rules to include vaping in the age restrictions. If passed by the full KC Council, any business caught selling to people under 21 could have its license suspended for 90 days.