Change legal age to 21 for smoking and vaping, council committee recommends   

Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Jim Heater supported changes to tobacco law at city hall.

Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Jim Heeter supported changes to tobacco law at city hall.

A city council committee today unanimously forwarded changing the legal smoking age from 18 to 21.

The Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee also recommended approval in limiting vapor products and things like rolling papers to those at least 21.

And another measure they approved would ban the use of vapor products in enclosed areas.

The three changes go to the full city council Thursday for final approval.

They come as vape shops have spread through Midtown and other areas of the city.

Some of those shop owners today spoke against the changes, saying their products help people quit smoking cigarettes.

Committee Chair Alissia Canady said, “Our goal is to keep nicotine out of the hands of our kids… regardless of the form.”

Curt Diebel, owner of Diebel’s Sportsmens Gallery on the Country Club Plaza, said the changes should exclude good cigars, which are different from cigarettes and vape products.

“Premium cigars are an entirely different class of product,” he said, one used for celebrations that is not included in other proposed federal laws on nicotine.

Doug Cox, owner of 816 Vapor, 809 W. 39th St.,  urged the council to not include the vape changes.

“Vaping totally got me off tobacco products,” he said.

Health experts testified that there was little data yet on the dangers of vaping, but youth who started it were more inclined to become addicted to nicotine and smoke cigarettes.

Jim Heeter, president and CEO of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said that younger kids are often introduced to nicotine from older ones.

Raising the age of legal nicotine from 18 to 21 is “one of the most effective ways to stop kids from starting a life-long habit,” he said.

Councilman Scott Taylor, among nine co-sponsors for the changes, said 135 community groups support them.

Heeter said very few businesses have spoken against the position taken by the chamber.

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