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Judge Temporarily Blocks Topeka From Raising Its Tobacco-Buying Age

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A Shawnee County District Court judge has temporarily blocked an ordinance that raises the tobacco-buying age in Topeka to 21.

The ruling comes after two Topeka businesses, with the assistance of the Kansas Vapers Association, filed a lawsuit this week challenging the regulation. The ordinance was scheduled to go into effect Thursday. The businesses claim the mandate conflicts with state law, which allows the sale of tobacco to people 18 and older.

“If we want to go have this conversation at the state legislature, as a statewide law, let’s go do that, but we don’t believe the municipalities have the authority to overstep that authority,” says Spencer Duncan, director of government affairs for the Kansas Vapers Association.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmitt issued an opinion in December that supported allowing local governments to regulate the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products.

Duncan thinks the attorney general’s stance is wrong. “With all due respect to the AG, he can’t get them all right,” Duncan says.

Health advocates have been able to get the tobacco-buying age raised to 21 in numerous Kansas cities and counties in recent years, including Kansas City, Overland Park, Independence and Leavenworth, as well as Jackson, Johnson and Wyandotte counties. They claim that teenagers who try tobacco are particularly susceptible to long-term use.

A hearing on the temporary injunction is scheduled for Feb. 1.

Alex Smith began working in radio as an intern at the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. A few years and a couple of radio jobs later, he became the assistant producer of KCUR's magazine show, KC Currents. In January 2014 he became KCUR's health reporter.