Casper City Council Finally Approves Tobacco/Vaping Ordinance
The Casper City Council on third and final reading on Tuesday approved the revised ordinance about aligning the city's tobacco and vaping products ordinance to the new state law.
The revised ordinance prohibits anyone under 21 from buying, possessing and using tobacco and vaping products, up from 18.
Aligning local and state laws usually is simple, with the requirement that a local ordinance cannot be less stringent than the state law that went into effect July 2020.
But revising the ordinance about the age requirement from 18 to 21 took much longer than usual.
On the first reading of the ordinance, the former council on Dec. 1 voted it down by 5-4.
Council member Shawn Johnson, who voted against the ordinance on all three readings including Tuesday, said the government needs to make up its mind about whether people are adults at 18 or 21.
The defeat posed a problem because the city ordinance would then be out of sync with state law.
The council and some city officials floated ideas including scrapping the ordinance altogether and just going by the state law, but that could have posed enforcement and court problems.
The council worked on revisions with a focus on health and the addictive qualities of nicotine whether delivered by cigarettes, chewing tobacco, vaping or other means.
Much of the discussion focused on the punishment for violating the revised ordinance. Instead of fines, an offender 17 and under would be require to complete a nicotine or tobacco education/cessation program for the first two offenses and then a requirement for 10 to 20 hours of community service.
Fines would be in effect for those 18 to 21, but not as high as previously proposed.
The court records would be expunged after six months for those who satisfy the terms of the punishments.
However, punishments would be increased for those who provide nicotine products for those under 21.
Tuesday, the revised ordinance was read for the third and final vote.
Vice Mayor Ray Pacheco successfully proposed the amendment to modify the penalties.
Council member Amber Pollock successfully proposed the amendment about the underage possession of nicotine products.
Before the vote, Pollock said, "we've come up with an ordinance that achieves all the goals that I think that we had; one, getting in line with the state statute; but, two, finding a way that our new ordinance will still continue to serve our health goals for our minors, our substance abuse goals in our community and then something that's going to work for the police department and for our court systems."
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