Update to city code makes vaping, tobacco use illegal for those under 19

KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - It's now illegal for people under the age of 19 to vape or use tobacco products in Kearney.

It's now illegal for people under the age of 19 to vape or use tobacco products in Kearney after the City Council updated city code Tuesday at their meeting. (Source: KSNB)

This comes after the Kearney City Council approved an update to city code Tuesday that increased the minimum age to use vape or tobacco products from 18 to 19. Now if anyone under the age of 19 is caught with those materials, they could be charged with a misdemeanor.

"A lot of it is just some of our youth are getting into things they really don't know what they're getting into," said Stan Clouse, Kearney mayor. "It's not just youth, but a lot of adults too. I think there's a lot of science that needs to be studied and presented as we make these decisions."

The ban includes all vape and tobacco products, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, dipping tobacco, vaper product and snuff. Other products and materials may be included.

Clouse said Kearney discussed this update to city code for several months. He said they did it to meet legislation the state already passed this year, which banned the use and possession of tobacco and vape products for people under 19.

If they're caught, legislation does allow the person to avoid legal trouble by turning in the person who sold or gave them the vape or tobacco products.

Clouse said the problem isn't with legal businesses or distributers.

"The challenge you have is the black market, and the other things out there that we know can be very dangerous, and how that gets in the hands of our youth and what that means for the public. So it's a very decisive issue," Clouse said.

Not everyone agrees with this ban. Lane Shannon, the owner of Kearney Vaper Supply, said he actually doesn't have a problem with the increased age. He said his target demographic is 25-34, because he doesn't want to aim his products at youth.

Shannon said he does feel 18 years olds who currently smoke or vape get the short end of the stick. He said since there's no grandfather clause, he feels they're now being criminalized for doing something that was legal just yesterday.

He said he doesn't mind some regulations, and agreed with Clouse that more scientific-based research needs to be reviewed as more laws are made.

Clouse said the city of Kearney doesn't like to be more restrictive than the state, which is why they haven't enacted a ban on vaping in public places like Grand Island did in September.

He said they're waiting to see what the legislature does next session and will go from there.

State law for the ban on vaping and tobacco products for those 19 and younger will go into effect on January 1. The ban in Kearney will also go into effect January 1.