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.
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 .
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.