Commissioners OK ordinance limiting minors' access to tobacco products
If seeing or touching a pack of cigarettes leads to nicotine cravings, there may soon be fewer Collier County teen-agers lighting up.
County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance that would limit minors' access to tobacco products. The hope is that buying â€” or stealing â€” smokes will be tougher, which may prevent teen-agers from starting the habit.
The board didn't need much convincing.
"Motion to approve," Commission Vice Chairwoman Pam Mac'Kie said immediately after Assistant County Attorney Jacqueline Hubbard Robinson introduced the proposal, which applies to all of Collier, including municipalities.
The ordinance says vendors cannot put tobacco products in an open display unit unless it's in a restricted area accessible only by employees. Specialty tobacco stores and those prohibiting minors from entering are exempt.
The rules apply to such products as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff or smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco and cigarette wrappers.
Florida law already stipulates that stores must post signs stating it's illegal for them to sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 18.
Members of the Collier County chapter of SWAT â€” Students Working Against Tobacco â€” brought the idea to county commissioners in June. One student told commissioners that he first smoked a cigarette when he was 9. That cigarette was from a stolen pack; he started stealing his own packs a few years later.
SWAT members said that by placing cigarettes behind counters and out of sight, teen-agers would realize that they are off-limits. They also argued that this isn't a new law â€” it's enforcement of existing laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors.
Four SWAT members attended Tuesday's meeting but didn't have to step to the microphone because commissioners approved the ordinance so quickly. It becomes effective once it is filed with the state.
SWAT members had petitioned Marco Island City Council last month. Marco council members told city staff to bring to their Aug. 6 meeting an ordinance proposal and also a draft resolution supporting Collier's ordinance in case the county's ordinance passed first, making Marco's redundant.