Ann Arbor has become the first city in Michigan to join the nationwide Tobacco 21 initiative by raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 years.
According to city council member Julie Grand, Ann Arbor has joined 180 communities around the country to raise the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. The impetus for the change was a trend toward increasing rates of smoking among adults in Washtenaw County, combined with advocacy from members of the Tobacco 21 organization.
The new ordinance could conflict with state law, which seems to prohibit local governments from creating new regulations related to the sale of tobacco products. The city council is aware of the potential conflict, but some members say they hope their effort puts pressure on state lawmakers to raise the age to 21..
"I have no idea whether anyone will sue the city, but I believe this is a state law that should be changed, and the only way to change state law sometimes is to challenge it," says council member Sabra Briere.
The goal of the ordinance is to reduce rates of smoking among young adults and counter recent upward trends in smoking. The ordinance will not penalize people under 21 for possession of tobacco. It is targeted only at businesses that sell to people under 21.