The Keene City Council has begun the process of refining an ordinance to prohibit the possession and purchase of tobacco and nicotine products by persons between the ages of 18 to 20.
During committee reports, the Municipal Services, Facilities, and Infrastructure Committee Chair Councilor Janis Manwaring said that at their previous October 24 meeting the Committee voted 4-1 to proceed with the ordinance that was presented to them by City Attorney Thomas Mullins.
“We would like to have a number and move forward to the first reading,” Manwaring said, addressing the Council.
Mayor Kendall Lane then opened discussion to the Council for questions and comments.
Councilor Robert Sutherland entered a motion to send the draft back to committee.
“When this was introduced by the Tobacco 21 group and the Monadnock hospital, there was an interest in educating the public, and the ordinance as it stands right now has no element of education … I feel as though this is something that, if somebody is ticketed for possession or purchase or something of that nature, who is under 21, that at least they would have an option to instead of paying that fine perhaps entering an education program. This would perhaps have a better outcome of what the intent of this ordinance is rather than just to punish somebody with a fine, to enable them to learn a little bit more the effects of tobacco and nicotine. This is why I’m asking for this to be sent back,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland said that another reason he was asking for the ordinance to be sent back to the committee was that it didn’t suggest any grandfathering, which he said warrants further discussion.
Councilor Philip Jones said that the ordinance would still be open for change even if Sutherland’s motion fails, “Probably since I’ve been on the Council, this has been the most transparent issue we’ve had. I’ve never had an ordinance with an opportunity to vote on two drafts before it even comes back. Even if we send it back to the committee, it’s still coming back here. If that motion is declined, it’s still going to come back to the Council anyway. It’s going to go back to the Committee and back to the Council, it’s just going to have a number on it, that’s all … There’s also opportunities to introduce new issues that can deal with educating or deal with whatever we want to do as part of this. I think we should continue with the progress we’re making.”
Councilor Randy Filiaut said that he agreed with Jones and that the Council should vote against Sutherland’s motion, since the ordinance will return to the Committee regardless.
Lane called for a vote on Sutherland’s amendment to send the ordinance back to committee, which resulted in a 14-1 vote, with Sutherland being the sole vote in favor of the amendment.
Lane then returned to the first motion of introducing the ordinance for a first reading. With no further discussion the Council voted 14-1 in favor of passing the motion, with Councilor Margaret Rice being the sole opposing vote.
The Municipal Services, Facilities, and Infrastructure Committee is set to meet again Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber A at Keene City Hall.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at