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Muskegon County May Increase Tobacco Age to 21

One West Michigan county is a step closer to changing the age to buy tobacco products.

Muskegon County commissioners say they support changing the legal purchasing age from 18 to 21 years old. In an unanimous vote Tuesday night, the commissioners approved a resolution of support. Several things still need to happen for the resolution to become an ordinance, but the coalition behind the initiative feels the move was a step in the right direction.

“It’s a lot easier for me to keep a child from smoking than it is to get an adult to quit,” Cyndi Powers, the co-chair of the Knowsmoke Coalition, told 24 Hour News 8. “Over 83 percent of all of our adult smokers came from smoking households. So if we can keep kids from becoming that smoking generation, that’s what our mission is.” Though there’s still a long way to go before the change could happen, some area tobacco shop owners already worried.

“It’s going to affect a lot of industries. It’s going to affect the tobacco industry, regular store-bought cigarettes, the roll-your-own. It’s going to affect the vapers. It’s going to affect a lot of people,” said Rustyna Brewer, who owns the Tobacco Shack in North Muskegon. She told 24 Hour News 8 a big chunk of her store’s customers are under 21. “Raising the age, that’s going to take at least a third of our customers away and that, for small businesses, hurts,” Brewer said.

Despite concerns, the Knowsmoke Coalition thinks the change will be a positive for health and not a negative for business.

“When we did smoke-free bars and restaurants, we had the same concerns. Studies have shown us we did not see a decrease in their business, so we definitely will do our part as a coalition to educate the community and we’ll make sure we make it an easy transition for everyone,” Powers said.

Right now, Ann Arbor is the only city in Michigan where 21 is the minimum age to purchase tobacco products. The city council there adopted the ordinance in August.

Learn more about Tobacco 21 here.

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Meet Shelia Wilson

Educating providers and youth about sexual health in Muskegon County.

“We are lucky to have the low HIV rates that we do in Muskegon County; but the STI rates are very scary because HIV and other STI’s can go hand in hand”, stated Shelia Wilson, Nursing Supervisor at Public Health Muskegon County. Shelia oversees the STI and HIV Program at Public Health. Along with that, come many other responsibilities.

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