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During its regular Tuesday session this week, the Buena Vista Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new tobacco ordinance, raising the age to buy and possess tobacco products within town limits to 18.

“We asked staff to come back with their recommendation and they have,” said Mayor Libby Fay.

Photo courtesy of Benefits Bridge — United Concordia

Police Chief Dean Morgan and Municipal Judge Lisa Scanga were asked to weigh in. Morgan had spoken extensively during the April 11 trustees meeting regarding the growing use of tobacco by the youth of the area. At that time he expressed support for a comprehensive approach involving both the Buena Vista School District and the town in addressing the problem.

“I don’t want kids to start smoking, but I don’t want them to be shamed and have something on their record either, said Trustee Sue Cobb. “We know tobacco entities target low-income kids, and kids on the fringe, How would this move through court?”

“The process begins at school; the school will take the first bite at getting kids to stop,” explained Judge Scanga. “When that doesn’t solve the problem, the Police Department will issue a citation for the kid and parents to come to court, where I”ll explain the possible penalties.”

Asked about whether she would impose fines or some jail,  she chuckled and said, “A fine. We’re the municipal court – we’re not the court for jail — in fact, jail isn’t really a thing for us … if a juvenile needs detention – that will go to county court.”

The maximum fine in municipal court could be $26.50. Scanga explained that the town purposely does not want to make it a big financial burden on youth. “But every kid is different… people really don’t want kids to pay fines.

She explained that there is a statute for vaping on the state books, so there is a basis for the town’s action.

“Our role in court is we talk with the kids and we learn why the child is there. The main option for a vaping ticket, if the kid has other things going on, is that I can choose to refer them to Restorative Justice. It’s confidential. Or, I can have them do an online education course for a certificate and then I could dismiss the case.”

She stressed that making the issue important enough to talk about it with youth can make a difference in stopping the behavior.

The motion to adopt Ordinance #23, adding a new section making it illegal for youth under the age of 18, to possess tobacco products, including vaping products, was made by Trustee Cindy Swisher.