Dover passes ordinance to raise smoking age to 21By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
June 29. 2018 8:52PM
DOVER — City councilors passed an ordinance Wednesday night that would raise to 21 the age to buy and use tobacco products.
Prior to the vote, councilors heard from people for and against the measure.
Olivia Malone, Hannah Martuscello and Elsa Rogers represented Dover Youth 2 Youth and said tobacco products get into the hands of teens through older high school students; the current statewide age is 18. They said vaping is on the rise and is taking place in school bathrooms.
Youth 2 Youth is the organization that pushed this year for statewide legislation to up the smoking age, but lawmakers set aside Senate Bill 545 in February.
State Sen. David Watters, D-Dover, supported the proposed state law and urged councilors to pass the ordinance in Dover.
Watters said the smoking age is going up in other states. Starting in July, anyone under the age of 21 will not be allowed to buy tobacco products just across the border in Maine.
Maine joins California, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon in increasing the smoking age. A total of 320 municipalities, including Boston and New York City, have raised the smoking age to 21.
Jon Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association, said there would be great damage to local businesses if Dover single-handedly raised the smoking age in the city.
“Increasing the minimum age will do nothing to restrict 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds from smoking,” Shaer said. “They’re going to take their purchases to another town.”
Shaer said he supports a statewide age change, but not one community moving forward in the hopes others will follow suit.
“That’s a heck of a risk. Are you willing to have businesses lose tens of thousands a year?” Shaer said.
Three other business owners from Dover echoed Shaer’s statements.
Although cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students between 2011 and 2016, electronic cigarette use increased during the same time period, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials at the CDC say eight percent of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in 2016, while 11.3 percent reported using electronic cigarettes.