GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – A new law in Garden City will make it harder for teenagers to get cigarettes through their 18-year-old friends.
Garden City officials this week voted to raise the town’s smoking age from 18 to 21.
For Garden City High School senior Garrett Kipp, raising the age to buy and possess tobacco was personal.
“My grandma, very young age, died,” Kipp said. “Smoking tobacco, three packs a day, so I didn’t really get to meet her fully, because she died before I was even born, so that kind of sparked it.”
As a result, Kipp and seven other students organized a movement to make it harder for young people to get tobacco products and crafted legislation to make it law.
“A lot of us were like yeah, this is great, because it’s going to overall benefit the health of the community,” Kipp said.
According to health officials, other cities that adopted similar laws saw a 46 percent decrease in teen smoking.
“It has been done elsewhere,” said Donna Gerstner with Livewell Finney County. “It has been demonstrated, so this is not something that we’re just trying here in Kansas. We obviously, when we try things, we want to make sure that there’s some background to it.”
But, state law still says anyone over the age of 18 can buy tobacco in nearby communities, including Holcomb.
“At some point, we would like to get that adopted in the entire county,” Gerstner said.
City officials say there is no grandfather clause in the new ordinance. Current 18-, 19- and 20-year-old residents will risk paying a $25 fine for using tobacco. That means current smokers who are under 21 will be provided some help in quitting.
“We realize that quitting tobacco is not easy, and we’re there for them with the usage of the quit line and counseling and that type of thing,” said Gerstner.
Garden City is the 15th Kansas city to raise the age to 21. Under the new law, underage smokers may be fined $25. Anyone selling or giving tobacco to underage users would be subject to a fine of $200.