Confusion over the minimum age to purchase tobacco and/or tobacco-related products may soon come to an end if a change to city code is approved by the Grand Island City Council on Tuesday.

At its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, the council will consider an ordinance to change Chapter 20 of Grand Island City Code, relative to usage of tobacco and/or tobacco-related products from age 19 to 21.

In a memo to the City Council, Interim City Attorney Stacey Nonhoff said the change would make Grand Island compliant with federal law to legally possess tobacco and tobacco-related products.

Last month, President Donald Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending package into law. One of the bills attached to the spending package raises the legal age to purchase tobacco and/or tobacco-related products from 19 to 21.

A day after the spending package was signed into law, the Food and Drug Administration stated in a tweet that it is now illegal for a retailer to sell these items to anyone under the age of 21, or for anyone under age 21 to be in possession of tobacco products.

However, in a memorandum sent to Nebraska law enforcement, county attorneys and state agencies, Attorney General Doug Peterson urged these entities to follow Nebraska law, which sets the minimum age to purchase tobacco and/or tobacco-related products at 19. Last year, the Nebraska Legislature voted to approve a bill sponsored by Sen. Dan Quick of Grand Island to raise the state’s minimum purchase age from 18 to 19. The bill went into effect Jan. 1.

In a Jan. 6 article, a number of retailers, including Hy-Vee and e-Titan Vapors, told The Independent they had different policies when it comes to the minimum age to purchase tobacco and tobacco-related products due to the discrepancy in state and federal law. Hy-Vee said its company policy set the minimum age to purchase these products at 21, in compliance with the federal law, while e-Titans Vapors said its company policy set the minimum age at 19, in compliance with the state law.

If approved by the City Council Tuesday, the revised ordinance would take effect within 15 days of passage and publication as a legal notice in The Independent, as required by state law.

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