Buena Vista Control Board Approves New Youth Tobacco Ordinance – By Jan Wondra
At its regular meeting on Tuesday this week, the Buena Vista Board unanimously approved a new tobacco ordinance that would raise the age to buy and possess tobacco products in the town to 18.
Mayor Libby Faye said, “We asked the staff to come back with recommendations, and they came back with recommendations.”
Police Chief Dean Morgan and City Judge Lisa Skanga were asked to consult. Mr. Morgan spoke broadly at the April 11 Trustees’ meeting about the rise in tobacco use by young people in the region. In doing so, he expressed his support for a comprehensive approach involving both the Buena Vista School District and the town to address the issue.
“I don’t want my kids to start smoking, but I also don’t want them to be embarrassed or have anything on their record,” Trustee Sue Cobb said. “I know tobacco companies target low-income and marginalized children, but how would this be challenged in court?”
“The process starts with schools. Schools will take the first step to get children to stop,” explained Judge Skanga. “If the matter is still not resolved, the police will summon the child and parent to appear in court, where I will explain possible penalties.”
When asked if she would be fined or jailed, she laughed. We are a district court, not a prison court. In fact, prison doesn’t really matter to us…if a juvenile needs custody, it goes to county court. ”
The maximum fine in a district court can be $26.50. Skanga explained that the town deliberately does not want to place a heavy financial burden on young people. “But every child is different…People really don’t want their children to pay the fine.
She explained that the town’s actions are justified because there are e-cigarette statutes on the state’s books.
“Our role in court is to talk to the children and find out why they are here. It means you can choose to refer them to restorative justice, which is confidential, or you can have them take an online educational course to get a certificate and have the case dismissed.”
She stressed that making the issue high enough to discuss it with young people would have the effect of stopping the practice.
A motion to adopt Ordinance #23, which would add new provisions making it illegal for youths under the age of 18 to possess tobacco products, including e-cigarette products, was introduced by Trustee Cindy Swisher.