2016-09-06: St. Louis County approves 21 and over law to buy tobacco, e-cig products

At tonight’s St. Louis County Council meeting, council members voted 5 to 1, with one member absent, to approve bill no. 199, authored by council member Dr. Sam Page. It raises from 18 to 21 the age at which one can legally purchase cigarettes and similar items, including e-cigarettes.

During the Public Comment portion before the vote, because so many had signed up to speak, each person was limited to one minute and most of those testifying wanted the council to drop the inclusion of e-cigarettes while generally supporting the bill otherwise.

One after another spoke of former smokers suffering from COPD or similar diseases who had been cured after they started using e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes were also claimed to have helped smokers quit. Their safety was also emphasized with numerous speakers referring to scientific studies showing them to be 95% safer than regular cigarettes.

Bill Hannegan, a staunch opponent of smoke-free air laws, argued that the council should respect the rights of 18 year olds.

Council members listened but were evidently swayed more by arguments that such laws had already been passed in many other cities and some states and were shown to work. Voting for the bill were:

Sponsor, Dr. Sam Page (D), District 2
Colleen Wasinger (R), District 3
Michael O’Mara (D), District 4
Pat Dolan (D), District 5
Kevin O’Leary (D), District 6

Voting against: Mark Harder (R), District 7

Absent: Hazel Erby (D), District 1

After the council adjourned Dr. Page gave an interview, captured in the still image from video I shot below.


Bill sponsor, Dr. Sam Page (center), being interviewed by Post-Dispatch reporter Steve Giegerich (L) plus another reporter after council adjournment

My own testimony, which I drastically revised after learning that comments would be limited to 1 minute, focused on the fact that advertising for e-ciagettes wasn’t stressing any claimed benefits of quitting regular cigarettes. Instead it was stressing sex appeal and the “freedom to have a cigarette without guilt,” to quote a Blu e-cigarette ad. (Please see my testimony below, following this link to reporter Steve Giegerich’s Post-Dispatch story here: St. Louis County Council moves minimum age to purchase tobacco, vaping products to 21.)


Testimony to St. Louis County Council by Martin Pion, President, MoGASP
Tuesday, September 6, 2016.

Hon. Council Members and County Executive Steve Stenger:

I applaud council member Sam Page for introducing Bill No. 199 to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco and vaping products to 21. I’m also delighted that it has broad bipartisan council support, and I hope that includes my council member, Hazel Erby.

Any constructive effort to discourage the use of these products is important for the health and safety not only of the potential user, but also of exposed employees.

Many comments last week from vaping supporters asked for those products to be exempted on the grounds they help smokers quit. The way they’re being marketed tells a different story .


Jenny McCarthy in Blu e-cigarette ad


Virginia Slims ad, circa early 1980s

This is a 2013 Blu e-cigarettes ad, featuring actress & model Jenny McCarthy, with the tag line:

“Freedom to have a cigarette without the guilt.”

Compare that to this 1980s ad for Virginia Slims, with the tag line:

“You’ve come a long way, baby” emphasizing women’s lib.

Passing this bill shows that public health and welfare have come a long way in St. Louis County.

Thank you.


2 responses to “2016-09-06: St. Louis County approves 21 and over law to buy tobacco, e-cig products

  1. Martin, I share your pain at learning of the time limit. I got caught in a Philly City Council hearing the same way about 15 years ago, but, since the featured speakers, all in favor of the ban, had been given ten to fifteen minutes or more each at the start of the session, I refused to abide by their two minute mark and announced at the start of my testimony that I’d shortened my six minute presentation to three. Not-Yet-Mayor Nutter was standing next to me glowering at me and tapping his hand on his papers and clearing his throat, but when I ended I got the biggest applause of the day from the chamber crowd! I’m not normally a good public speaker, but the tilt of the playing field that had been set up in favor of the ban had gotten me really, REALLY, angry: and it showed through in the strength of my abbreviated presentation.

    Heh, on the bright side, you should have had no problem with the limit after the years of tight limits here! LOL!

    – MJM
    P.S. has that limit been loosened now?

    mogasp reply: Your comment is 952 characters with spaces to just before your sign-off, so it’s fine. When I counted my testimony to St. Louis County Council it was 1,036 with spaces, which wouldn’t fly officially if submitted as a comment here, but it took just under a minute to read to council members, and that’s what mattered. (Although the last speaker, a well-dressed young man in a business suit who said he operated four vaping establishments and was rather loud, went on for over 1:32 mins. I was surprised he wasn’t cut off earlier.

  2. I think limits are fine, as long as they’re applied fairly. When Vincent Robles chaired a hearing in NYC in 2000, he had everyone fill out an index card with just their name, then shuffled the cards, counted them, divided into the hearing time, and declared everyone had five minutes apiece. Heh, James Repace looked VERY disgruntled after traveling all the way there (from California?) as he spent the first three of his five trying to list all his qualifications and then just had a two mins for his argument.

    What rankled me with Philly though was the first two hours of hearing being given to professional Antis with long presentations. By the time the citizens got to the microphones the news orgs were packing their equipment away.

    – MJM

    mogasp comment: I can sympathize with James Repace being somewhat miffed at being so limited for time during the presentation if it cost him significant time and money to attend. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I know Repace well, and like and respect him. During the Public Comment portion of last night’s county council meeting, the only person to significantly run over the allotted one minute time was the owner of several vaping retail establishments asking for e-cigs to be dropped from the ordinance.

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