Butts out

Two stakeholder meetings are planned next month to hear public comment on plans by Pima County and the City of Tucson to raise the age to buy tobacco and electronic cigarette products to 21. 

The ordinances also would require retailers to pay for an annual permit to sell the products, which county health officials said would be about $300.

Tucson already requires tobacco retailers to have permits within city limits, but the new permit would raise the fees. The permit would be new to county tobacco retailers.

The ordinances would also classify e-cigarette products as tobacco, which would ban their uses everywhere smoking is banned.

The county and city have been working together to craft similar ordinances that would be enforced by the county. The county’s Board of Supervisors pushed voting on the ordinance to Sept. 17 during their Aug. 6 meeting in the face of opposition by several supervisors.

Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Ally Miller and Steve Christy did not support the measure, citing concerns over the punishments to retailers who violate the ordinances and whether 18 to 20 year olds should be denied the right to legally purchase tobacco products.

The ordinances would fine a retailer $600 and suspend their sales permits for 30 days after a second violation within 36 months of a first violation. There are no punishments in the ordinances for clerks or customers.

Representatives from Circle K and Quick Mart both said tobacco sales account for 30 percent of their income and a suspension of 30 days or six months could cause major losses of revenue and potentially close their locations.

Pima County also heard from anti-smoking advocates who said raising the age to 21 would help remove tobacco and e-cigarette products from social circles of those under the age of 18. 

Chairman Richard Elías was the lone supporter of the county's ordinance. Supervisor Ramón Valadez made the motion to move further discussions to Sept. 17. 

The Tucson City Council also pushed further hearings on their ordinance to September, following the county's move.

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

Reporter

Reporter Jorge Encinas was born and raised in Tucson. He graduated from the University of Arizona with master's in journalism in 2016.

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