Topeka allowed to raise tobacco age limit to 21, state Supreme Court rules

Published: Jun. 28, 2019 at 10:08 AM CDT
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The City of Topeka is allowed to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products within city limits, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In December 2017, city council members raised to 21 the minimum age to purchase cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, tobacco products, or liquid nicotine.

The company that owns Vapebar Topeka and Puffs 'n' Stuff quickly filed a lawsuit, arguing the state had exceeded its home rule powers. In March, Shawnee Co. District Court Judge Franklin R. Theis sided with the shops and instituted a permanent injunction preventing the ordinance from going into effect.

Speaking for the state high court, Justice Caleb Stegall

the state's law establishing a minimum age did not indicate lawmakers did not want local governments to raise it even further.

Additionally, Stegall said the City is not prohibiting what the state's tobacco law allows, nor does it expressly allow what the the state Legislature prohibited.

In light of those two facts, the state Supreme Court ruled the higher age limit is within the City's home rule powers and threw out Thies' injunction.

“The City of Topeka is pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision and its support of home rule authority,” Deputy City Atty. Mary Feighny said in response to the ruling.

A Topeka spokesperson, Molly Hadfield, pointed out the decision doesn't mean the City can start enforcing the ordinance immediately.

The Supreme Court still has to issue its order to the Shawnee Co. District Court and it cannot do that the plaintiffs have had a chance to request another hearing - and they have 21 days to do that, Hadfield explained.