VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA) — Van Buren city officials made a major move toward discouraging smoking in their city.
The Van Buren City Council passed an ordinance Monday stating that you must be 21 year old or older to purchase cigarettes in Van Buren.
“We view smoking and e-cigarettes as a big problem with our young people,” said Tyler Wood, councilman for Ward 1, Position 1, and the director of the pharmacy at Baptist Health in Fort Smith. “If you look at the smoking rates, Arkansas ranks higher than the national average in rates of high schoolers that smoke and use smokeless tobacco.”
Lung cancer is the most lethal type of cancer in both men and women in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association.
“Smoking, a main cause of small cell and non-small cell lung cancer, contributes to 80 percent and 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and men, respectively. Men who smoke are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Women are 13 times more likely, compared to never smokers,” the American Lung Association’s website states.
The state legislature passed a law in May that gradually raises the smoking age from 18 to 21 by 2021. The first change goes into effect Sept. 1.
The law bans all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from those under 21 years old. It exempts members of the military and also doesn’t apply to smokers who turn 19 years old before 2020, which is how the state will phase in the new requirement.
Wood said he and fellow city officials passed the ordinance to show support for the state’s law.
“We wanted something like that on our local books as well. We view smoking and e-cigarettes as a big problem with our young people,” Wood said. “The amount of money spent on healthcare to combat some of those problems is quite high as well. Anything we can do to decrease the ability of young people to start that habit and promote healthy living, that’s what we’re all about.”
The ordinance was passed with an emergency clause, which makes it go into effect immediately, according to Wood.
The ordinance is a code violation that comes with a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $1,000, Wood said.
Passing the ordinance was a necessary measure to protect the health of Van Buren residents, according to Wood.
“We’re always considering the health of the citizens Van Buren; this falls in line with that,” Wood said.