Commissioners endorse local students to push age raise on tobacco purchases
Four Churchill County High School students are preparing to push for a new law to the Nevada State Legislature—and Churchill County Commissioners agreed to back them.
During the County Commissioners meeting last week, the students requested an endorsement to raise the age for tobacco products, including vape, to 21 in collaboration with the Churchill Community Coalition.
The law already is enacted in five states: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and Oregon.
“I see a lot of my classmates with 18-year-old friends and they’ll buy cigarettes for them,” said CCHS sophomore Emily Marshall. “Usually, it’s the lunch money parents give them. I don’t like seeing my friends go through that.”
The students are part of the non-profit, Students Taking On Prevention (STOP) program, focusing on educating and providing information to the public about substance abuse prevention, mental health, and bullying. The team consists of grades 6-12.
According to 2015 data presented to commissioners, 17.9 percent of high school students in Fallon reported they currently used tobacco products, 46 percent of high school students reported using electronic cigarettes, and 25 percent using vape products.
“Our classmates now go across the street to residencies in order to smoke off campus,” said CCHS sophomore Whitney Bernard. “Or they will take hits of nicotine in the middle of class with the electronic cigarette.”
“Some students have asthma,” said CCHS sophomore Jalicianna Kratz. “The smoke bothers them but those who smoke do it because they want to.”
In Nevada, 30 percent of high school youth reported using tobacco product, including e-cigarettes. States that enacted the law have shown changes in youth smoking statistics since raising the age; in 2005, Needham, Massachusetts became the first location in the country to pass it and by 2010, youth smoking rates were cut in half, according to the Tobacco 21 campaign.
However, Nevada is a pre-emptive state, meaning local laws cannot be more stringent than state law. Currently, state law to purchase tobacco products is 18. The process to change the language will need to go through legislation and if STOP gains local support, the students will present rural support and information to state offices.
So far, the students gained support from local organizations and businesses within the Fallon Chamber and presented information to the offices of Catherine Cortez-Masto and Dena Heller at Washington, D.C. in February.
Commissioner Bus Scharmann recommended the students to present the information to Senator James Settelmeyer and Assemblywoman Robin Titus.
“It seems like tobacco is on the rise again,” Scharmann said. “It’s also important to get other counties involved to support this.”
Tammie Shemenski, Youth Coordinator of the Churchill Community Coalition, said Fallon’s STOP group also is involved with teams in Dayton and Gardnerville to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21, and students from Douglas County also presented the idea to their county commissioners.
Like alcohol, Shemenski suggested commissioners to require tobacco retailers to obtain a renewable tobacco license with required training and a compliance test.
As commissioners approved to endorse STOP to push to raise the age sale of tobacco products, they also reached out to the Nevada Association of Counties for support.