Cleveland Bans Under-21 Sale of Tobacco Products

Includes e-cigarettes, hiring, but still mulling flavor prohibition

Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Smokers under the age of 21 will not be able to buy cigarettes, tobacco or other tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, in the city of Cleveland, reported The Plain Dealer.

The City Council on Monday passed legislation banning the sale or distribution of the products to young adults, in the hope that increasing the minimum sales age from 18 would disrupt the supply to adolescents and teens.

Council also passed a resolution calling for the city to follow the Cleveland Clinic's lead and begin hiring only non-smokers by 2017.

Some council members expressed concern at recent committee hearings that the legislation increasing the minimum purchase age would criminalize the act of young adults sharing cigarettes among friends and would unfairly target the black community by making cigarette use probable cause for stopping black youths, said the report.

That issue was resolved with an amendment Monday, clarifying that the new restrictions apply only to vendors who sell tobacco and smoking products, and not to consumers.

Under the ordinance, a first offense would be a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a $250 fine. Subsequent offenses would be second degree misdemeanors, which could carry a 90-day jail sentence.

The council postponed a vote on a third piece in the package that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products everywhere but in retail tobacco stores.

Kelley said in an interview Monday that the council is still seeking to clarify aspects of the ordinance, such as what constitutes a "flavor" and whether menthol cigarettes fall under that category.

The package of ordinances has drawn criticism, from convenience store owners, who testified before the council's Health & Human Services Committee that the restrictions would undercut their businesses and seem to favor big smoke shops, the report said.