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Pima Supes snuff out 'T21' age limit for tobacco, vaping products

Pima County Supervisors voted 3-2 against imposing a ban on selling nicotine products to residents under 21 years old, while the Tucson City Council put off a decision on a similar new law.

The proposed county law would have regulated retailers across the county and barred the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes to those under the age limit. The Tucson City Council is also considering such a ban, and had discussed having the county take charge of regulating tobacco sales inside the city limits.

Republicans Steve Christy and Ally Miller were joined by Democrat Sharon Bronson in defeating the measure, which was brought back to the Board of Supervisors after a series of changes to the proposed ordinance over the past month.

After the supervisors' vote, the City Council voted 7-0 in a meeting later Tuesday to rework the proposed city law, to update plans now that the county has bowed out.

Opponents of the measure have said any regulation should be state-wide, with some saying that the county shouldn't be a "nanny state."

The law initially had the backing of the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society, but those groups stepped away from the measure after the penalties against infringing retailers were dialed back as a result of a pair of public meetings over the past several weeks.

As introduced last month, the law would have suspended permits to sell nicotine products from retailers who stacked up too many instances of selling to underage customers. Under the latest version, which was supported by the other two Democrats on the board, Supervisors Richard Elias and Ramon Valadez, businesses would have been fined for the first three violations and lose their permit for a fourth infringing sale.

The second version of the proposed law also added penalties for clerks for violate it, with educational sessions for the first and second violations and a $300 fine for a third offense.

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The law would have exempted residents who were already 18 when the restrictions took effect.

The county's rejection of the law complicates the prospects for the city of Tucson. The two governments had worked out preliminary plans to coordinate enforcement, with the county taking the lead in issuing permits and issuing violations.

In reaction to the county vote, Tucson's mayor and Council members voted unanimously to have staff rework that proposed ordinance to allow for the city undertaking those responsibilities without county involvement. The updated plan would have to be voted on at a future meeting to take effect.

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