Dec. 7 saw a new law passed in Cleveland as the City Council voted 13-3 in favor of passing the legislation prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Cleveland now joins the ranks of more than 100 cities in the U.S. to raise the legal age for tobacco products consumption.
After Mayor Frank Jackson signs the legislation into law, there is still a 120-day leeway for other legislators to propose changes, if there is a need, before it goes into full effect. What does this mean for the people of Cleveland?
Merchant focused law
Although it is the legal age that is raised, the legislation concentrates on stores that offer cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products so the legislation would not directly penalize the consumer. For the merchant, however, the penalties are pretty hefty.
Non-compliance means fines and jail time
Stores that do not comply with the law and get caught selling tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, no matter the reason, could face jail time on top of a hefty fine. First time offenders will be chargedwith fourth degree misdemeanor punishable with either a $250 fine or 30 days jail time. Anything beyond that would mean second degree misdemeanor leading to 90 days of jail time or up to $750 fine.
Business owners are not happy
Of course, merchants are not happy with the legislation since their businesses would be at a disadvantage. “Taking that away from us puts us at an unfair disadvantage… He needs to stick to better issues. This is a bad idea,” Victor Muntaser, owner of two convenience stores said, referring to Councilman Joe Cimperman who led and pushed for the legislation to go into effect.
In a month’s time, two other proposals will be up for voting and it could potentially change either the people’s view of smoking or the legislators. The first proposal deals with restricting the sale of flavored tobacco only in tobacco shops. The other proposes that the city should hire only non-smokers by 2017.