Exemptions to Tobacco 21 ordinance creates confusion in Parsons

Exemptions to Tobacco 21 ordinance creates confusion in Parsons
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An ordinance in Parsons, Kansas limiting the purchasing age of tobacco products to 21 and up receives push-back from convenience stores struggling with enforcing exemptions to the law.

People on both sides of the ordinance and its exemptions weigh in on the issue.

Richard Totman smoked for more than 30 years and thinks everyone should avoid the addictive habit, no matter how old they are.

“I started when I was about 13 years old and I’ve paid for it ever since after I got older. You can’t breathe right and it affects your health, so I don’t think they oughta’ get it even then,” said Totman.

It was that line of reasoning that led the City of Parsons to adopt an ordinance last april, prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

“The commission felt this would be on the healthy side of things moving towards a healthier community by increasing the age of cigarette sales or keeping them out of the hands of youth,” explained Jim Zaleski, Director of Economic Development for the City of Parsons.

The ordinance passed on April 2nd and went into affect the next day, but it’s been causing a headache for local clerks ever since due to a grandfather clause.

“There were exemptions put in there that if you were 18 prior to the day it was passed, you could still purchase them, or if you were one of our armed forces,” said Zaleski.

The problem is that cashiers, who previously could enter in a customer’s birthday into their computer system without worry, now have to rely on a chart to evaluate each person individually for approval.

“With the ordinance written as it is, it’s just setting them up for failure because you know when you have a line of people and it’s rush hour or you’re training someone new and you I.D. somebody who is wanting to purchase, it can be complicated,” explained Cami Raschen, Manager of Stockyard Travel Plaza.

27-year-old Justin Lane thinks the city should make things easier for everyone by revoking the ordinance entirely.

“They should not be cracking down, grandfathering in just because they’re in the military or whatever. Keep it simple. 18 to buy it like it’s been for how many years, and just go about it that way,” said Lane.

Raschen believes under-age smokers will simply find other places to purchase their tobacco products, but hopes the city will remove the exemptions so she can make sure all her sales are on the up-and-up.

“We wanna do it right. We do not wanna do it wrong,” said Raschen.

It’s still legal for anyone 18 or older to possess tobacco in Parsons, even though they can’t buy it in town.

On March 4th, the commision plans to consider eliminating exemptions to the Tobacco 21 ordinance.