WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Wichita City Council approved changes to its tobacco ordinance on Tuesday, shifting the penalty from underage youth to tobacco license holders, such as store owners or managers.
The proposal was brought to the City Council last week, but they held off on voting until Tuesday. Previously, clerks and kids were the ones receiving tickets.
The new ordinance says the clerk will receive a warning on the first offense and will be charged with a class B misdemeanor on the second offense with a minimum $200 fine.
The business license holder may be charged on the first offense if they are present. Those cases will most likely be when the clerk fails to ID.
The license holder can include a manager or representative acting as the license holder or the person in charge of the retail business. Council Member Brandon Johnson said this is going to require educating businesses that sell tobacco.
“The potential manager or license holder, if they’re witnessing their clerk, not ID, will be fined,” Johnson said. “So it’s a bigger penalty for them now. And I think for some time, they’ve been able to kind of just blame everything on the clerk and have no real penalty for themselves. Now it’s a joint effort.”
The new tobacco ordinance:
Kari Rinker with the American Heart Association (AHA) says while she is very pleased with the change made today, they were hoping for more.
“We fell short by the City, not including the yearly compliance check in the ordinance itself. That kind of commitment would protect it from future cuts or short staff,” Rinker said.
Rinker says although Wichita Public Works is doing some compliance checks, they wanted a solid commitment included in the ordinance.
Johnson says the City will continue to work with AHA on internal policies for compliance checks.
Wichita Public Works reported doing 455 compliance checks in 2022.