WatchSonoma Watch

Healdsburg: Ban tobacco sales to those under 21


Healdsburg may become the first city in California to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 years old.

Most City Council members agreed this week they want to raise the age for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarettes in town, despite the likelihood of being sued.

“We’re on the map for a lot of things: our wine, our tourism, our restaurants. Is this such a bad thing to be on the map for?” said Councilman Shaun McCaffrey.

healdsburglogo“Part of our job is to look out for the health of our citizens,” he said while also acknowledging the city likely would be the target of litigation, presumably from tobacco companies or retailers.

While there was a consensus to move forward with an ordinance raising the age to 21 for buying tobacco, council members also agreed they want the city attorney to further investigate the matter before they vote on it, probably in late January.

The council took up the topic after being approached by retired Healdsburg physician David Anderson two months ago. He said raising the age limit for buying tobacco will discourage teens from starting to smoke and “make a statement to teenagers, parents, visitors and educators.”

City Attorney David Warner said he was unable to find any other city in California that has raised the age for buying tobacco above the state-mandated minimum of 18. Bills have been introduced in the state legislature, but those efforts have been unsuccessful.

A few states and counties have raised it to 19. New York City in October adopted what were described as the strictest limits on tobacco purchases of any major American city. It raised to 21 the minimum age for buying tobacco and electronic cigarettes. It also set a minimum price of $10.50 per pack for tobacco cigarettes and stepped up law enforcement for illegal sales.

Opponents of the New York City law suggested young adult smokers will turn to black market merchants. Critics also questioned the fairness of prohibiting young adults from buying tobacco at 18 but allowing them to vote or serve in the military.

Healdsburg City Councilman Gary Plass, the lone voice on the council against raising the age for buying tobacco, said 18-year-olds can “go off to war, and enter into contracts to buy property and autos.”

“My hope is we can educate them up to 18 and maybe they won’t smoke,” he said.

Plass noted that his father died as the result of smoking. But he said even if the minimum age is raised, those under 21 could still smoke, go just outside of town to buy tobacco, or to nearby communities like Windsor.

He said raising the age “would open up the city to some pretty strong liability.”

His comments followed those of City Attorney Warner who told the council it was perhaps premature to be a trailblazer.

“There is some risk involved, potential litigation if we get too far ahead (of other cities),” he said.

Warner also said Healdsburg is likely preempted by state law from adopting an ordinance raising the minimum age to 21. Both state and federal law specify 18 as the minimum age to buy cigarettes or smokeless tobacco.

But a majority of the council leaned toward increasing the age minimum. As a dentist and health care provider, Councilman Jim Wood said he has seen the ravages that smoking causes and it can occur early.

“We’re not asking for a ban on smoking,” he said, but a delay in the age at which young adults can buy tobacco.

“If we get sued, we can deal with it when that happens,” he said, adding that there may be groups that would help the city fight a lawsuit because it’s a huge health and safety issue.

“If the Legislature doesn’t have the will to do it, then why can’t a community in California step out and say this is the right thing to do — so let’s do it,” said Wood, who is a candidate for State Assembly.

Anderson, he physician who broached the topic, said he had a petition with over 300 names on it urging the City Council to raise the age for purchase of tobacco products. He cited statistics from the Center for Disease Control stating one of every five deaths in the U.S. is related to smoking.

Most alarming, he said, is that 88 percent of smokers will begin in their teen years. Electronic cigarettes are addictive and can be bought at any age, he said.

Council members indicated they wanted to make e-cigarettes part of a new age restriction as well, as urged by Anderson. The city attorney noted that some proponents consider them a method of smoking cessation with a beneficial use, while others feel it’s nothing more than a conduit to future smoking.

But he said at least one federal court ordered the Food and Drug Administration to treat them like tobacco.

8 Responses to “Healdsburg: Ban tobacco sales to those under 21”

  1. Jason Hernandez says:

    Don’t worry about 18 year olds leaving Sebastopol to buy smokes…these council czars will outlaw private vehicles and then you’ll have to take a bus to Santa Rosa, and show your ID when you’re searched coming back into Sebastopol.

    Maybe they won’t need to do a body search because they have militarized the police already and they’ve got all the surveillance equipment.

    Think I’m crazy? Don’t be a chump. Go ahead, outlaw sugared sodas, cigarettes, and dissent. Cover every hill with vineyards, though.


    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Follower says:

    Give me a break!
    …”as if” your mandated Obamacare is going to allow you to keep smoking.

    People just don’t get it.

    The Government now controls YOUR HEALTH!

    If the EPA can claim a puddle in your back yard is a “protected waterway” what in the world makes you think Kathleen Sebelius is going to let you do whatever you want with the body that she is in charge of keeping healthy?

    It’s “on” folks!

    The Socialists now have no choice but to stop at NOTHING to make sure that they remain at the helm because they know that if this power falls into “the wrong hands” they can kiss roe-v-wade goodbye!

    Among MANY other things!

    This is going to get VERY ugly.

    Kinda hard to get too excited about “smoking in Healdsburg”…

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

  3. Big Fish says:

    We all know the story of smokers in our lives from parents, relatives and friends. With all the awareness to the inherent dangers and problems caused by smoking it’s depressing to see young people smoke. However, raising the purchasing age to 21 is useless and just a classic progressive liberal mindset they know best and regulation is the answer to all ills. The big problem among youth and society at large is drinking excessive alcohol followed by the typical routine of pot and harder drugs including synthetics. If I get 300 signatures demanding that you can only have one glass of wine a week, and another 300 signatures demanding that all products containing too much fat such as meat, pizza, pastry,etc.be banned because it causes heart disease. Do you think anyone would follow the law?
    Kids are doing what they see and what so called “adults” are doing. (Unfortunately, I don’t any adults.) It will not stop them one puff! Young smokers are the least of our societal problems and the local council should look at themselves and recognize they should “butt” out of this issue and spend valuable time on real issues like balancing the budget and creating surplus.

    As evidenced by the surge in e-smoking “real” smokers are now smoking more! It’s the neurotic anxiety feeding of the mind that leads to excessive indulgences.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  4. The Hammer says:

    Ahhhh, which vineyards and restaurants does the City of Healdsburg own? NONE, so don’t speak as though you are responsible for them, cause you’re not.

    This issue is way too big for a little town like Healdsburg. Next they’ll want to force you to buy bottled water.

    Also, is this the best they can come up with to justify their jobs?

    If your wondering, I have never smoked.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  5. Arthur Diamond says:

    Cigarette taxes go mainly to support youth prevention programs and health care. What is Healdsburg thinking? Well, that liberal city council usually doesn’t think before they act and this is no exception.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  6. Steveguy says:

    If they can get blown up in some God forsaken place, sign contracts, etc, then they can smoke them if they got them.

    Go ahead Healdsburg, spend money on lawyers for the inevitable lawsuits as the City is just flush with extra money. ( Note sarcasm)

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  7. David says:

    Cigarettes are evil, ban them! Oh wait, the government makes a ton of money in taxes off the sale of tobacco products, never mind!

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  8. PapaESoCo says:

    “Nanny State”!!! Uh, let me see, 18 year olds are old enough to: Die for their Country, they can vote. Politicians might want to remember the vote part (I know, they are not big on getting to the ballot box, still, maybe if they are motivated). Seems to me they are old enough to decide for themselves if they want to smoke, or not. Besides, plenty of other So. Co. cities will sell to them. How about Healdsburg Pols stick with real business.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

Leave a Reply