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Dover leaders consider raising smoking age from 18 to 21

Union Leader Correspondent

June 14. 2018 12:37AM
People under the age of 21 will not be able to buy or use tobacco products if a proposed ordinance sponsored by the mayor is passed. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

DOVER — Dover officials are considering a new city ordinance that would raise the age for people to buy and use tobacco products to 21.

Some people are in favor of the local change. Others say it will hurt businesses and waste money on police enforcement.

Mayor Karen Weston is sponsoring the proposed ordinance which would ban people from buying or using tobacco products until they are 21. This would include e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.

Weston is the owner of Janetos Market and will have to recuse herself from any future vote on the issue because it impacts her financially, but she was asked by Dover Youth 2 Youth to stand up for the health of teens in the community and feels obligated to do so, she said.

“Eighteen may be too young because I don’t think they realize the dangers of cigarette smoking,” Weston said Wednesday.

Dover Youth 2 Youth members pushed for statewide legislation to up the smoking age this year, but lawmakers set aside Senate Bill 545 in February.

Izabelle Wensley and Caitlin Temple are both 17-years-old and advocates for the ordinance. They say the point of raising the smoking age is to keep cigarettes and vaping devices out of high schools.

“People definitely smoke at the high school age. Keeping tobacco out of the hands of my peers is very important,” Wensley said.

Temple said companies that make vaping devices use flavors like cotton candy and cherry to attract teens. She said although cigarette smoking is down for youths, vaping is popular.

Business owners located within walking distance of Dover High School and Regional Career Technical Center had unique perspectives on the issue.

Singh Raghbir, who runs Dover Travel Stop on the corner of Central Avenue and Locust Street, discourages all of his customers from smoking.

“I tell them, ‘If you die, I won’t have any more customers,’” Raghbir said. He encourages smokers to spend the $7 on some of the food he sells.

On the proposed ordinance, Raghbir said he doesn’t care if the age is increased to 21 even if it temporarily hits him in the pockets.

“I’m not in favor of smoking. I don’t want people to smoke,” Raghbir said.

Across the street at Shell, Site Manager May Morrill says the proposed ordinance would force her to lay off up to 10 employees, many of whom are single moms. Forty percent of sales at the three Shell locations in Dover are from tobacco products, she said.

“It’s just all the people that would be without jobs,” Morrill said. “They’ll have to go on welfare.”

Downtown at Central Towers overlooking Henry Law Park, Wilma Fournier, Carol Westcott and Rosemary Higgins said if teens want to get their hands on tobacco products they will.

“Kids are going to get it if they want to get it. It’s the same as booze,” Fournier said.

“I think the money could be well spent somewhere else besides 18-year-olds who are going to do it anyway,” Westcott said of enforcing the potential ordinance.

City councilors were expected to have a first reading of the ordinance Wednesday night. There will be a public hearing on the proposed ordinance June 27, Weston said.

Health Dover Local and County Government

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