Casper City Council Defeats Proposed Rule to Raise Tobacco Use Age to 21
The Casper City Council on Tuesday on a 5-4 vote defeated on first reading some changes to the municipal code to raise the age at which someone can buy and use tobacco and nicotine products.
The government needs to make up its mind about whether people are adults at 18 or 21, council member Shawn Johnson said.
"You shouldn't be allowed to send people to fight for their country and die, but then take them to jail for having a beer or a cigarette," he said. "It's ridiculous."
The proposed revisions would have aligned the Casper Municipal Code to changes in state law that, as of July 1, prohibited the sale, purchase, possession and use of nicotine products by anyone under 21. A violation would be a misdemeanor.
Voting against were Johnson, Steve Cathey, Mike Huber, Bob Hopkins and Ken Bates.
Voting in favor were Mayor Steve Freel, Vice Mayor Khrystyn Lutz, Charlie Powell and Ray Pacheco.
The defeat posed a problem, and Pacheco asked Casper City Manager Carter Napier what happens now that the city is out of sync with the state.
Napier suggested rescinding the entire tobacco ordinance from the city municipal code so if and when police officers enforce the state law they don't have to deal with the conflicting language between local and state law.
Huber said he didn't see a problem.
If an officer cites someone under 21 for smoking per the state law, the arrested person would be sent to Natrona County Circuit Court rather than Casper Municipal Court, he said. Huber is a former circuit court judge.
"So I don't see any reason to rescind our current ordinance," he said.
City Attorney John Henley said it would be better to have one version of the law.
The proposed revisions also dealt with electronic cigarettes and similar devices that use a liquid containing nicotine that is heated, vaporized and inhaled by the user.
But all that's moot now.
The discussion about the proposed revisions started with a public comment period, but no one addressed the council.
After that, Johnson saiid he would cast a protest vote. "I think this is just as ridiculous as the alcohol laws here."
Huber also agreed for the same reasons, even though he's a "pretty rabid anti-tobacco person."
Pacheco said he would voted in favor of the ordinance although he understands where the opponents are coming from, adding the effects of tobacco are bad and this would be a good conversation for the city's youth council.
Lutz clarified that the proposed revisions were just cleaning up the local code.
Powell said he respected the opponents' reasons, but the city needed the revisions.
Johnson got in the last word, saying that every movement starts at the grass roots.
"If you look at the legalization of marijuana, it started at the city level in opposition to state statute, and eventually everything changed," he said.
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