‘Tobacco 21’ resolution fails to get support

WARREN — An effort to pass a resolution encouraging the state to prohibit the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to anyone under 21 was derailed Wednesday as two council members said they would not support the effort.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, on Wednesday sought to pass a watered down version of what had been a proposal to prevent store owners from selling tobacco products to those under 21 years of age.

However, after several health and welfare committee meetings, Rucker sought to get council to provide written support for an initiative to pass laws against selling tobacco products to those between 18 and 21 on a statewide basis, instead of doing it on a local level.

On a night at which two councilmen, Larry Larson, D-1st Ward, and Mark Forte, D-4th Ward, did not attend the meeting, Rucker would have needed unanimous support to pass the resolution.

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-at Large, during council’s pre-meeting caucus, said he would vote against what he thought was the original proposal that was given to council earlier this summer.

“If you can prove this legislation will save one life, I would support it,” Colbert said. “That cannot be proven.”

Colbert said there are laws on the books aimed at stopping people from assaulting one another and people still commit those crimes. He questioned how officers are going to enforce laws against something that persons using them can legally have once they leave the store at which the cigarettes are purchased.

Although Colbert admitted he did not realize the original proposal was changed to a resolution, he still believes it should not be a local issue that, if passed, would only hurt Warren area businesses.

Young people wanting to buy cigarettes would be able to purchase them in neighboring cities.

“Cigarettes kill people,” he said. “We all know that. This should not be attacked from the edges. If something is going to be done, tobacco products should be made illegal.”

Councilman Ken MacPherson, D-5th Ward, said the proposal is taking away personal responsibility from people old enough to go to war, to be put to death if they commit a capital crimes, to vote, and to indebt themselves with student loans.

“Yet, in this one specific issue, we want to tell them how to control their bodies,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson said council members should be addressing issues they have control over, such as getting high grasses cut, snow removal and getting roads patched.

“As ward councilmen, we have important things to do that have immediate impact on our constituents’ lives,” he said.

Rucker reminded the councilmen the resolution only provides support to initiatives to enact statewide laws that would prevent sales of tobacco products to those under 21.

The resolution was placed in first reading to give council more time to debate and clarify whether it can earn enough support to pass.