Tempe City Council approves raising tobacco purchasing age

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The Tempe City Council passed an ordinance raising the purchasing age of tobacco on Oct. 26. The ordinance requires someone to be 21 years or older to purchase tobacco products. Before, the purchasing age was 18.

Tucson and Flagstaff are other Arizona cities with this type of ordinance. Under the new ordinance, stores must pay an annual licensing fee of $300.

If a store is caught violating the rules, such as selling tobacco to children, it will be hit with a $500 fine for the first violation and required to attend a retail tobacco training class. A second violation results in a $750 fine and the store will be prohibited from selling tobacco products for a week. A third violation will result in a $750 fine and a monthly ban from selling tobacco products. If a fourth violation occurs, the store will be fined $1,000, and its license will be removed.

Dr. Gary Kirkilas, a general pediatrician at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss the significance of this ordinance.

Dr. Kirkilas said this is a great decision and explained the age of 18 to 21 is a critical time for kids to transition from experimental use to daily use of tobacco products.

“If we can delay that onset by three years, hopefully kids will be less prone to peer pressure. Their brain is developed more. It’s a really good decision. Additionally, when you think back to high school, some seniors are 18 years old. All it takes is a junior or sophomore to ask a senior to get them to buy those products,” Dr. Kirkilas said. This can ultimately help eliminate tobacco use in high schools.

Tobacco use has decreased in recent years, but vaping has now taken over as the top substance for younger kids, particularly 8 to 10th graders. For 12th graders, it’s second only to alcohol, according to Dr. Kirkilas.

Dr. Gary Kirkilas, General Pediatrician, Phoenix Children's Hospital

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