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Council Voting for tobacco 21 Ordinance delayed until January

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District presented its final proposal to the City Council on Tuesday, hoping to obtain support to increase the age to buy tobacco products in Bexar County from 18 to 21. After almost two hours of discussion , Mayor Ron Nirenberg postponed the vote from December 14 to January 4, 2018.

Related: Metro Health proposes to increase the age of tobacco purchase

"We just want to make sure that everyone in the Council understands what they are voting for," Nirenberg said in a conversation with Rivard Report . "The critical component that many people were still confused about is the enforcement mechanism, and once it's blocked, we're ready to put that to a vote."

Metro Health Director Colleen Bridger said the proposed revisions would reflect the Current state laws on tobacco use, but would change the age restrictions to 21. For those youth who violate the ordinance, Bridger recommends repercussions focused on education and smoking cessation.

Although all Council members agreed that smoking is harmful to the health of people and the community, some Council members were arrested on the ordinance and whether it would have adverse effects on specific communities, particularly on low-income groups and small businesses. At a town hall meeting in November, several convenience store owners lamented the effects the new ordinance would have on the results of their business.

<img class = "size-full wp-image-1513198" src = "https://therivardreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/BonnieArbittier_tobacco_21_tobacco21_store_owners_b_session_city_council_12-06-2017-2-1170×816.jpg" alt = "The owner of the store, Amandeep Sandhu, holds a sign protesting the Tobacco 21 ordinance in front of the city council 19659013] Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The owner of the Amandeep Sandhu store holds a sign protesting the Tobacco ordinance 21.

Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) expressed concern that the ordinance would disproportionately affect people in communities like his, where he said people are "more likely to be pursued by law enforcement For one reason or another. "For example, youth who remain out of the habit of smoking in the store could be attacked by this violation and receive a ticket as a result, he said.

Bridger, support by James Flavin, deputy head of the San Antonio Police Department, explained that citing people to smoke has never been and will not be a focus for local police officers. So far in 2017, there have only been 31 citations for smoking in minors issued in Bexar County, he said.

Police officers would not question the age of people smoking in public, Flavin said in response to Gonzales. "The 31 citations – which were fortuitous encounters", where the person was arrested for another violation and received an additional charge for possession of tobacco products by minors.

SAPD has always had the authority to issue citations for smoking to minors, Flavin explained, but that "would remain a priority."

Councilman Manny Peláez (D8) said that his acceptance for the program is "contingent on [being ensured that this] it's a health and education effort and not a law enforcement effort." expressing concern that SAPD would unfairly focus on retailers. This practice had taken place in his district, he said, and seemed to be more prevalent among certain ethnic populations.

Metro Health sanitarians, who investigate outbreaks of foodborne illnesses and violations of smoking ordinances, among other issues, would be the first line to enforce the new ordinance, Bridger said. It would ensure that stores comply with the law, which would include the publication of new age limit information and possible repercussions, and the tracking of sales to minors.

  Session of City Council B

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

City Council discusses Tobacco ordinance 21.

Councilmen Roberto Treviño (D1), Cruz Shaw (D2), King Saldaña (D4), John Courage (D9), and Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7) spoke openly in support of the ordinance. 19659003] Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) said he opposed the ordinance and expressed concern about classifying someone as an adult in one instance and not in another. Some may see San Antonio in a negative light because of the new ordinance, he added.

"What do we do with the children who come to town with their cigarettes?" He asked. "If we are concerned about protecting our young people, this should be a problem for the state Legislature, this is not a San Antonio problem."

Bridger told the Rivard Report that he does not stop because the vote was rescheduled on January 4, since it gives him more time to "find out where [they can] commitment" is and reach a point where Board members feel comfortable with the language of the ordinance and compliance policy.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to work for [compromise] instead of having enough votes to approve it," said Bridger. "It's not going to happen next week, but it's going to happen."

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