Summit County’s nine townships will have to wait a while longer before county government acts on whether to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and related vaping paraphernalia to anyone under 21.
County Council members postponed acting on the vaping age-restriction legislation at Monday night’s committee meetings following discussions on balancing the legal rights of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds with the wishes of the communities.
The legislation instead will be placed on the March 25 council committee agenda. Council members then can ask for more time to act or vote on it as the “committee of the whole,” with six yes votes needed to place it on the next full council meeting.
With 10 of 11 council members present Monday — John Donofrio was absent — it was not clear that the committee of the whole had the six votes needed to move the legislation along to a third reading by the full council.
Legislation co-sponsor Clair Dickinson made an impassioned case to pass the under-21 sale restrictions, saying it would save lives. He noted that his father and father-in-law died from smoking-related illnesses.
“I believe this is sound public policy,” Dickinson said.
He and the other co-sponsor, fellow Democrat Paula Prentice, said the legislation had the backing of all nine township governments.
“We are the voice for the townships. That makes it very simple for me,” Prentice said after the committee meetings adjourned. Prentice earlier in committee said that e-cigarettes and vaping were a significant issue in local school systems. Prentice said she has been told that 18-year-olds still in school will supply younger students with e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Republican Bethany McKenney also said school officials had talked with her about the importance of keeping vaping products out of the hands of 18-year-olds.
Democrat John Schmidt, however, while saying there is a “special place in hell” for people and companies selling tobacco products, questioned whether the proposed legislation impinged on the individual rights of people who are considered adults.
“Does it bother you or anyone else that you are taking rights away?” Schmidt said. “I have a real hard time taking people’s rights away.”
Dickinson said legislation is always about balancing the rights of the individual and that of the community.
Schmidt said lots of things, such as bacon and Scotch, are bad for people, and that some communities have enacted public health bans on the sale of large, sugary drinks.
“What’s next?” Schmidt asked.
The legislation had the backing of Summit County Public Health. Akron, Green, Twinsburg city, Mogadore, Norton and Richfield village passed laws banning sales of e-cigarettes and paraphernalia to anyone under 21 within their borders. But Stow, Hudson and Barberton voted down similar measures.
The proposed County Council legislation would restrict sales in Bath, Boston, Copley, Coventry, Northfield Center, Richfield, Sagamore Hills, Springfield and Twinsburg townships.
Council member Jerry Feeman asked for more time on the legislation. Dickinson supported Feeman’s motion, which was unanimously approved. Dickinson said afterward that council historically approves a member’s request for more time.
Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ.