City officials now have the authority to enforce the federal age to buy tobacco, thanks to a recent ordinance change.
The Janesville City Council on Monday voted to change the legal age to buy or use tobacco or vapor products in Janesville from 18 to 21.
The measure passed 5-2 with council members Sue Conley and Doug Marklein opposing.
Council President Richard Gruber said altering the ordinance prevents putting local police in a conflicted position.
Only federal agencies had the authority to enforce the new federal tobacco age when it changed to 21 in December, Gruber said. The state Assembly has passed a bill to raise the state tobacco-buying age, and the state Senate is expected to pass it in coming weeks.
Leaving Janesville’s ordinance alone would be confusing for police, who must enforce state and local laws, Gruber said.
Public health officials say smoking and vaping are unhealthy practices and the government should do its part to keep people healthy, he said.
Council member Jim Farrell said he wishes the council could push vaping restrictions further and ban sales of vaping products in the community.
“I think having vaping establishments in the community is a bad thing,” he said.
Marklein and Conley said they believe changing the smoking age from 18 to 21 is an overreach of government.
Eighteen-year-olds are old enough to join the military and be independent, so they should be able to make their own decisions, Marklein said.
Marklein, who does not smoke, said he thinks smoking is a bad habit, but the government should not intervene in someone’s decision to smoke.
Conley agreed, saying adults should be able to make their own decisions.
John Lindaas, owner of Cigarette Depot, 1527 Milton Ave., said he stopped selling tobacco to anyone younger than 21 after the federal law changed.
Lindaas thinks the government should have grandfathered people who were of age at the time of the law change, allowing them to continue buying and using tobacco products.
Overall, the age change has not affected his business.
Not many young people have come in to try to buy tobacco, Lindaas said.
“They have gotten the idea,” he said.