Nicotine age goes federal

Just last week, after about three months of spirited public discourse, Nashua Board of Aldermen members rejected an ordinance to raise the legal age to purchase or sell tobacco and other nicotine products from 18 to 21.

This occurred by a tight 6-7 vote. According to Alderman Ernest Jette, the measure failed even after amendments were made so that the ordinance did not ban simple possession of cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chew and liquid nicotine by those under age 21. Originally, the measure would have outlawed a 20-year-old from another community from even possessing tobacco while in Nashua, but Jette said members rejected the ban even after this provision was removed.

Board of Aldermen member Patricia Klee also serves in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. In voting against the Nashua ordinance, she has said she believes this should be a state matter, rather than a city issue. Klee said state Senate Bill 248 will be considered in the fall and voted on in January.

This Senate bill states: “No person under 21 years of age shall purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or use any tobacco product, e-cigarette, or liquid nicotine.”

“On a state level, I’ll be the first in line to vote for this bill,” Klee said during a recent Nashua meeting.

However, both Nashua and New Hampshire seem to be now taking a back seat to U.S. Senate. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose home state was long one of the nation’s leading tobacco producers, introduced bipartisan legislation to raise the minimum age for buying any tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The measure would apply to all tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vapor products and it was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., whose state has also been a major tobacco producer.

“Kentucky farmers don’t want their children to get hooked on tobacco products while they’re in middle school or high school any more than any parents anywhere want that to happen,” McConnell said Monday on the Senate floor.

“Youth vaping is a public health crisis,” McConnell added. “It’s our responsibility as parents and public servants to do everything we can to keep these harmful products out of high schools and out of youth culture.”

“Today, we are coming together to side with young people’s health,” Kaine stated Monday. “Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a critical part of our efforts to improve public health and keep tobacco products out of schools and away from our children.”

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, but a federal law against the purchase or sale of nicotine to those under age 21 addresses our previous concerns about visitors to Nashua having to worry about adhering to a different set of rules from those in their home communities.