Alachua County residents under 21 will have a harder time getting their nicotine fix, except in one city.
Following a recent decision by its city commissioners, Newberry is the only city in Alachua County where the age limit for purchasing tobacco products is 18.
During their Oct. 14 meeting, city commissioners unanimously agreed to opt out of Alachua County’s tobacco ordinance that raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. The ordinance officially went into effect Tuesday.
Newberry City Commissioner Matt Hersom said while the commissioners don’t encourage young adults to use tobacco, they felt that the county’s ordinance was too overreaching.
He said Newberry’s city commissioners should be able to set ordinances and restrictions in Newberry without the county infringing on their rulings.
“We believe the best government is a local government, and that’s [tobacco regulations] an issue that should be addressed as a local issue,” Hersom said.
Hersom also said he and other city commissioners perceived the county ordinance as a misguided attempt at regulating tobacco.
“It only regulated the sale, not the possession of tobacco... so at 18, somebody could still possess tobacco,” Hersom said. “That doesn’t solve the problem. That is just addressing a symptom of a larger issue.”
As Newberry is located less than five miles away from the county’s western border, city commissioners worried residents would simply drive into Gilchrist County to purchase tobacco.
Stoney Smith, general manager of Hudson Food Stores in Newberry, said he’s worried about the effect the ordinance will have on businesses outside of Newberry. He fears that if 18 to 20-year-old smokers are unable to purchase tobacco products in other areas of Alachua County, the businesses that sell these products could lose profits.
Smith said city and county commissioners also failed to mention whether property values will be reduced during their recent meeting because a reduction could help businesses stay afloat after a loss in sales.
He said he doesn’t want to prevent residents under 21 from shopping at his store in a state where legal adulthood begins at 18.
“We can give a young man or woman a gun and go out there and tell them to protect our country, but you can tell them they can’t buy a legal product in a state where the legal age is 18 is a little bit crazy,” he said.
FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, file photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. A Michigan judge is blocking the state's two-week-old ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. She says Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration's delay in implementing the ban undercut its position that emergency rules were needed. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)