Community leaders continue push to change legal tobacco age to 21

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SOUTHWEST MISSOURI–Right now, you only have to be 18 to buy tobacco, but supporters are pushing to move that number up to 21–both around the country and in the Four States.

This was one of the goals highlighted in the Vision 2022 process. And, Scott Vorhees is leading the charge.

“I think if we can prevent needless death, we should,” Vorhees explained.

Vorhees wants to delay that decision of whether to smoke. Instead of 18, make 21 the legal age–decreasing the possibility of an addicted teen.

“This is one of those things where I don’t think there’s any reason to delay,” Vorhees added. “Every day we delay, somebody else is getting addicted.”

Vorhees points out that traditional smoking has been trending down, but that’s not the case for vaping.

“Vaping has made the news with some of the contaminants, with some of the unexplained deaths, some of the unexplained illnesses,” said Vorhees. “We don’t really know all of what goes into these vaping products.”

Which could be the motivation to change the age for tobacco in at least one Southwest Missouri town.

“The way that it’s been marketed to kids, I think it’s been on everybody’s mind,” Carl Junction city administrator Steve Lawver explained.

Moving up the age is becoming more common. Two dozen Missouri cities have already made the switch, covering more than 40 percent of the state population.

“We have communities all across the nation who have adopted Tobacco 21,” Vorhees explained. “Springfield recently did. Kansas City did years ago. The City of Eldon did. Carl Junction, I think, is about to.”

Carl Junction leaders have discussed the issue at two recent meetings, but have not yet taken an official vote. They’re expected to bring it back up at a meeting later this month.

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