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Second New Hampshire City To Prohibit Vaping, Tobacco For Anyone Under 21

December 8, 2018

In an effort to influence state legislation, the city council of Keene, New Hampshire voted 10-4 to raise the minimum age a person may purchase, use, or possess tobacco and vaping products to 21. The former age requirement in the city was 18; the council’s new ordinance is effective immediately. (A video of the meeting can be viewed here.)

Keene is now the second municipality in the state to make the change after Dover raised the age to 21 in 2016.

The ordinance covers the use, sale, or possession of “tobacco products, liquid nicotine and electronic cigarettes, which are battery-operated devices containing nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals,” the Keene Sentinel reports.

In a secondary 13-1 vote, the council voted in favor of encouraging New Hampshire state senator Jay Kahn (D-Keene) to press for state legislation that would follow Keene’s lead and raise the age limit to 21 throughout the state.

The council was particularly concerned about the use of so-called “E-cigarettes,” electronic devices that deliver nicotine and other substances to users via vapors without combustion or smoke. Such “vaping” devices have become popular among teen-agers and with those attempting to quit traditional combustion-based smoking.

At the December 6 council meeting, councilor Randy L. Filiaut said that vaping is “a new nasty habit that the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA call an epidemic. This is not saving somebody from smoking. … This is why local officials like us have to take the bull by the horns and do the right thing.”

The youngest city councilor, Margaret M. Rice, 24, responded to Filiaut, saying:  “As the only person on this council who is remotely close to the age range that would be affected, I trust my peers to make healthy decisions if they’re empowered to do so.” She added the ordinance did not help further educate her younger peers about the dangers of vaping and that the law felt like a “punishment.”

Councilor Robert B. Sutherland said he opposed the new ordinance “because this creates a lot of problems because of the splitting of the towns, and this is the only circumstance of any products for regulation in the state where the municipalities will be able to regulate them and for that reason I feel this is an issue that should be dealt with by the state.”

Councilor Janis O. Manwaring said the council was indeed setting an example.

“Everyone is watching us. Some of the towns are waiting to see if Keene is going to go with this ordinance,” he said.

The council further noted that the state will likely raise the age limit once all of the state’s neighboring states adopt the higher age limit; Massachusetts and Maine have already done so, while Vermont is considering it.

Violators of the Keene ordinance are subject to a $50 fine for a first offense, and $100 for each subsequent offense. The penalties are based on guidelines provided by the state.

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