Overland Park Raises Age Of Tobacco Purchase To 21

May 17, 2016

Overland Park is the 11th municipality in the greater Kansas City area to raise the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 from 18.
Credit File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

The Overland Park City Council on Monday set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products, meaning that a regional campaign has now upped the legal age in the metropolitan area’s five largest cities.

The council approved the ordinance Monday on a 9-3 vote, with council members Dave Janson, Fred Spears and Dan Stock voting against the measure.

Tobacco 21|KC is an initiative of Healthy KC, a partnership of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, and more than 150 businesses, health care organizations, hospitals and government agencies.

The local effort is part of a national campaign, and proponents hope it will cut down on the number of people who develop long-term addictions to tobacco products.

Overland Park’s passage makes it the 11th area community, including the five most populous, to adopt the ordinance.

The other big municipalities are Kansas City, Missouri; the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas; Olathe; and Independence in approving the measure . Along with Overland Park, their population exceeds a million people.

So far, the only cities to have considered the measure and turned it down are Gardner, Leavenworth and Mission in Kansas. In March, the city council unanimously defeated it, calling it an infringement on personal freedom.

Health experts say preventing children from starting to smoke is one of the best ways to prevent them from picking up the habit as adults. The Institute of Medicine says that of adults who become daily smokers, about 90 percent say they began smoking before they reached the age of 19 and nearly 100 percent before the age of 26.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Gardner, Kansas, was the only city in the metro area to reject the Tobacco 21 measure. Leavenworth and Mission in Kansas have also rejected it.   

Mike Sherry is a reporter for KCPT television in Kansas City, Mo., a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.