The North Platte city council approved a provision in city regulations Tuesday that makes it illegal for anyone under age 19 to possess e-cigarettes.

The council passed the ordinance on third and final reading, including electronic nicotine delivery systems in city regulations that apply to tobacco sales and usage.

The council vote was unanimous.

Also, Nebraska’s minimum age for tobacco possession increased from 18 to 19 years old this month. Adding to the regulator fervor, the Federal Drug Administration increased the minimum age to 21 to buy any and all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The revised city ordinance mirrors the state law. It says it shall be unlawful for anyone under 19 years not only to buy, but also to possess any electronic nicotine delivery system, as well as tobacco products and/or alternative nicotine products.

That means a student who is caught with a vape cartridge or a small Juul-like device in school can be cited for a crime.

In addition, all persons who sell or furnish electronic nicotine delivery systems must complete responsible sales training prior to selling or furnishing the product, under the new ordinance.

That training will be provided by the police department, Police Chief Dan Hudson said after the meeting.

The North Platte police department drafted the ordinance. Hudson said the use of e-cigarettes by students is increasing at an alarming rate. He cited surveys conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The city council did not increase the age to 21 to follow the federal law, to the dismay of George Haws of the anti-tobacco group, Tobacco Free Lincoln County.

City Attorney Doug Stack advised the council to stick with state law, not federal.

“There is some argument that federal law takes precedent,” Stack said, but the city will have the most success enforcing the law by leaving the minimum age at 19.”

Stack said the legislature could increase the legal age to 21.

The Nebraska Attorney’s General Office is advising Nebraska law enforcement and  state agencies that enforcement is limited to the state law age of 19, unless and until the Nebraska Legislature changes the minimum age from 19 to 21 as suggested by the FDA.

Hudson said with one exception, stores in North Platte have changed the minimum purchase age to 21.

 

In other business, the council:

• Approved moving the Hebrew Torah Center to a dwelling at 902 East Francis.

• Approved, on second reading, the creation of a street improvement district on Lakeview Blvd. from West. A to Front St. That will allow the city to widen the existing two-lane blacktop county road and install sidewalks in the future. It will also help handle traffic if and when a potential residential track is developed at A and Lakeview. Councilman Ed Rieker cast the only no vote.

• Renewed an agreement with the USDA for pigeon control.

• Approved the second reading of updates to the city fire code.

• Approved the following appointments: Gayla Ward and Mary Ann Agler to their second terms on the library advisory board. Richard Raska and Dixie Francis to their third terms. Dave Lund to the city tree board. Chuck Scripter to the Ready to Serve Volunteer (RSVP) board.

• Approved a special liquor license for the Habitat for Humanity Miss Veterinarian contest, Feb. 2 from 3 p.m.-midnight at the D & N Event Center.