Hilliard City Council members said they would take some time to consider raising the minimum age of purchase for tobacco products from 18 to 21.

An ordinance "prohibiting the sale of cigarettes, other tobacco products, alternate nicotine products and product paraphernalia to persons under the age of 21" remained in committee Sept. 25.

Mayor Don Schonhardt and council President Nathan Painter asked for the legislation to be drafted, law director Tracy Bradford said.

Bradford said the administration is seeking to be "proactive" in response to the issue.

Schonhardt said as public servants, he and city leaders "have taken an oath to protect the health and welfare of our community."

Bradford said she provided council members the legislation Sept. 22 and some additional background information early Sept. 25.

With Painter absent Sept. 25, council Vice President Kelly McGivern asked for the ordinance to remain in committee for further discussion.

McGivern said after the meeting she had not heard from any residents seeking such a change but "it would remain a discussion item."

She said she would ask the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce about the proposed change in law.

Councilman Les Carrier said he has not been persuaded that raising the purchase age to 21 significantly would reduce the use of tobacco among young adults.

He and Councilman Tom Baker also said they had heard little from the community about the issue.

"No one is knocking my door down about it," Carrier said.

"I don't see a lot of support for it," Baker said.

The Ohio Revised Code prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

But through the powers of home rule, Ohio municipalities can enact local laws creating stricter standards as "long as (they) are not in conflict with the general laws of the state," Bradford said.

The law would apply to all retail establishments in the city limits.

Anyone selling or otherwise conveying tobacco products or paraphernalia to anyone under 21 would be subject to a citation as an unclassified misdemeanor as a first offense and could be assessed a fine of $250 to $500, Bradford said.

A subsequent offense would be a third-degree misdemeanor, she said.

The new law would not penalize a person under 21 who purchases tobacco products or paraphernalia, Bradford said, but it would penalize a person who provides someone under 21 with false identification with a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

Councilman Bill Uttley said he was concerned the proposed law would penalize only the seller.

"All the risk is on the business; there should be some on the buyer, too," Uttley said.

Councilman Al Iosue said he has yet to review the material Bradford provided and reserved his opinion until he learned more about it.

Schonhardt said a number of other communities already have enacted or are considering enacting legislation increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21.

Bexley, Grandview Heights, New Albany, Powell and Upper Arlington are examples in central Ohio, according to Bradford.

In a related action Sept. 25, City Council members introduced an ordinance that would prohibit the use of any tobacco product in city-owned parks and recreational areas and on the premises of city-owned buildings and facilities.

It would end the practice of outdoor designated smoking areas in such places as the Hilliard Municipal Building and the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center, Bradford said. However, it would not extend to the Joint Safety Services Building, 5181 Northwest Parkway, because Norwich Township owns it, she said.

The ordinance is slated for a second reading Oct. 23.

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