Vincent Moore / News Editor

Vincent Moore

News Editor

The City of Keene just moved one step closer to raising the purchase and possession age of nicotine products.

The Municipal Services, Facilities and Infrastructure Committee met on Thursday, September 28, to discuss a proposal submitted by Program Manager for the Cheshire Coalition for Tobacco Free Communities Kate McNally, which called for the City to raise the minimum age for the purchase and possession of nicotine products from 18 to 21.

The Committee allowed the Program Manager for the Coalition, Kate McNally, to speak before the microphone was opened up for public comment.

“Our real goal is to get the tobacco products, including vapes, out of the middle and high schools, and this strategy will help us to do that,” McNally began.

McNally spoke about the criticism that her proposal had received, particularly regarding the enforcement aspect of raising the possession age to 21.

“We’re not proposing a new initiative to chase down teenagers, we’re actually proposing that we just stop selling to anyone from 18 to 20 so we can keep it out of the middle school and high school,” McNally said.

Despite McNally’s reassurances, City Attorney Thomas Mullins said that, should the City Council adopt the proposal, local law enforcement would have the authority to enforce the possession prohibition.

Mullins also said that having a discrepancy between the possession and sale ages could become problematic, “It seems to me to be a little bit problematic to have a sale prohibition to be 21 but not to have the possession prohibition be the same, it starts to set up unpleasant ambiguities.”

Owner of Monadnock Vapor Daniel Cavallero was one of the many to speak to the Committee against the motion.

“What issue does this solve? It solves no issue. When a person wants to get their hands on something, they’re [going to] get their hands on it. It doesn’t matter if you raise the age from 18 to 21, from 21 to 25, it doesn’t matter. Whatever happens, we’ve never sold to underage kids. Never. Yet, somehow it ends up in the schools,” Cavallero said.

Cavallero said that in light of other health crises the community is facing, vaping shouldn’t be a major concern for the authorities: “The Keene PD already have a lot to worry about. [They have] a heroin epidemic, and now we’re talking about a Juuling epidemic? Are you kidding me? It offends me as a business owner, who built a business from nothing into something, now I’m opening a third store. And it offends me as a libertarian, who believes that young adults should have their rights… when you’re 18; you’re an adult, that’s it.”

After an hour of public comment and more than a dozen different speakers, the Committee discussed the matter amongst themselves.

Chairperson Janis Manwaring said that she was voting in favor of the proposal to protect young people from the negative effects of smoking, vaping, and chewing tobacco products.

“If we can keep young adults from … doing it and give their brains a bigger chance to develop in a healthy way, that’s great,” Manwaring said.

Councilor Robert Sutherland said that while he thinks that nicotine use is an important issue that needs addressing, it’s an issue that requires the state government’s attention rather than the city’s.

“I would appreciate if the petitioner and Tobacco 21 to focus on Concord instead of city by city, town by town,” Sutherland said.

The meeting ended with a motion to recommend that the full City Council have staff draft an ordinance to change the age of sale and possession of all tobacco and nicotine products from 18 to 21, and have said draft returned to the Committee for first reading.

The motion passed three to one, with Robert Sutherland casting the sole opposing vote.

“This is the very beginning. This is what we do we get public input. We listen to it, we do a recommendation to the full council, now it goes to full 15-member body next week and there’s going to be a lot more discussion,” Vice Chair Randy Filiault said.

The Keene City Council will convene to meet on Thursday, October 4.

Vincent Moore can be contacted at

Share and Enjoy !