Worthington City Council has directed staff members to draft an ordinance that would ban the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 21.
If enacted, the ban would follow the lead of such central Ohio cities as Columbus, Grandview and Upper Arlington, prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other forms of tobacco from anyone under the age of 21.
The topic was discussed at the Sept. 11 meeting and was presented to council by city intern Ethan Barnhardt, who focused on the issue as his primary summer assignment.
Barnhardt said research suggests 25 percent of high school juniors and seniors have used tobacco within the past 30 days and 80 percent of adult smokers started smoking in high school.
Representatives from Columbus Public Health, who are preparing for the Oct. 1 implementation of Columbus’ policy, helped elaborate on how a hypothetical ordinance could be established and enforced in Worthington.
One concern expressed by council members was the idea that businesses might have difficulties adjusting.
However, City Manager Matt Greeson said, most of the tobacco sellers in the city already are dealing with similar ordinances elsewhere.
“The bigger companies ... are going to be familiar with it because they have locations in Columbus,” he said.
With no dissent, City Council members agreed they would at least like to see the issue debated as an ordinance with a public opinion.
“I think we should have staff bring us an ordinance ... so that we can have a public hearing and see what residents think,” Councilman David Norstrom said.
City Council also directed staff members to take a closer look at other municipalities who have had varied forms of implementation.
“I would want staff to reach out to those other communities to see what their thoughts are,” Councilwoman Rachael Dorothy said.
Greeson said his goal would be to present an ordinance that aims to hold business owners to the “highest level of accountability.”
He said staff members would draft legislation containing specific language and return to council within a “reasonable timeframe.”