The agenda item for Tuesday's city commission meeting reads as pretty bland — "receive a report from NHS students on the STAND program in Newton Schools."
It will, however, be a bigger deal than that. STAND president Eli Redington will ask the commission to consider a change to city codes raising the legal age for the purchase of tobacco products, including electronic smoking products, to 21.
"We want a T-21 ordinance, to not allow for the use of any nicotine products, so that would be (e-cigarette) paraphernalia or anything that could get you addicted to nicotine," Redington said. "Nicotine is what gets you addicted to tobacco. We want people to not have anything to do with tobacco until they are 21."
The junior-to-be is the countywide STAND president. He will be joined by sophomores Savannah Hunsucker and Karly Green, who are both Newton reps on the STAND board, and junior Mallory Seirer, who is part of the new Sources of Strength program at the high school.
"We want to go this route because we see the effects it has on youth and how quickly people can get addicted, especially on a mind that is not as developed as it is when you are 21. We certainly approved it to be up by 25 when your mind is fully developed, but 21 is about as far as we can go because it is the same age as drinking age," Redington said.
STAND is asking for the city to make a move that has already been made by some private businesses. As of July 1, Walmart stores nationwide no longer sell nicotine products to anyone under the age of 21.
That was a move announced by the corporation in May. The store also placed the same restrictions on e-cigarettes and announced it will end "the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems," according to John Scudder, U.S. chief compliance and ethics officer for Walmart Inc.
Redington said 15 retailers would be affected by raising the legal smoking/tobacco age to 21.
"When it comes to the tax the city makes on it, this ordinance will have almost no effect on the amount they make from it. We also know that all branches of the military have said they do not want their enlisting 18-year-olds being under the influence of nicotine products," Redington said.
If the commission moves forward with the action, a vote on the ordinance would be considered at the July 23 meeting.
Born from work of the public/private partnership in Harvey County to enhance drug prevention efforts, STAND is a group of high school students supported by Mirror Inc. who create educational efforts in the area of drug use prevention.
Programming put on by STAND has taken a wide range of forms since it was started, from educational parent nights within local school districts to outreach programs targeted toward students to informational sessions at community events.