Topeka City Council raises age for buying tobacco products to 21

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka City Council members made a move Tuesday night they hope will snuff out smoking, by limiting who can buy cigarettes and nicotine products within city limits.

The council voted eight to two, approving an ordinance prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

Supporters, including Seaman High School sophomore, Mia Weiler, say it’s the first step to improving the city’s public health problem.

Weiler lost her best friend to lung cancer. Something, she says could've been prevented.

"This situation is very near and dear to my heart because of my best friend that I lost in January and I really wanted to do this for her,” Weiler said.

She spoke at Tuesday’s city council meeting, asking council members to vote yes on the ordinance. The council agreed on an eight to two vote. Tony Emerson and Jeff Coen voted no.

Elaine Schwartz proposed the ordinance. As a cigarette smoker for over 30 years, she wants to discourage others from making what she called her mistake.

“I have a heart condition right now and I have a surgery on Thursday for it and that heart condition that was related to smoking,” Schwartz said.

The ordinance does not prohibit people 18 to 20 from smoking or consuming tobacco, just purchasing it.

“The studies have shown that teenagers do reduce smoking if they can't get the cigarettes,” Schwartz said.

The vote will be among the final acts for Schwartz as a council member.

“It was a wonderful way for me to go out and be off the city council in January on a high note of getting something to pass that I really felt was and believed was good for Topeka and good for our kids,” Schwartz said.

Opponents say the city does not have the authority to make the change, but the city’s legal counsel say they have a solid base to move forward.

The Shawnee County Commission approved a similar measure for the country’s unincorporated areas earlier this year.