GAMBIER — Despite an assurance of “our (county) Board of Health is behind you” following a Knox County Health Department Tobacco 21 presentation, the Gambier Village Council gave no indication last week as to whether initiating a Tobacco 21 policy is in the village’s near future.
At its June 3 meeting, council members commended Tami Ruhle and Mike Whitaker of the Knox County Health Department for providing an update about Tobacco 21 policy, a growing trend in Ohio municipalities that bans tobacco sales to those under age 21. Whitaker suggested that council consider a resolution at the minimum — but advocated for an ordinance because it would given a tobacco ban more teeth.
“A lot of the (tobacco) products are in the hands of teens now, and it’s becoming a major problem,” Whitaker said, speaking of the highly popular Juul and other vaping products based using electronic (e-cigarette) systems. He repeatedly emphasized that Tobacco 21 is not meant to punish tobacco users but to provide “deterrence” to young people who may be considering tobacco products like vaping.
Yet while commending the county for its Tobacco 21 presentation and all information that goes with it, Gambier village councilmembers did not mention bringing forward a Tobacco 21 policy at a date certain. Mayor Kachen Kimmell noted that Gambier only has one business where tobacco is sold, which is Village Market at 109 Chase Ave. She said in her view, village leaders do need to take into account Kenyon College’s student population of 1,700 undergraduate students “and the need to be responsible.”
The Village Market property is owned by Kenyon College. A store employee said Monday that Juul and other vaping/e-cigarette products are not sold there, only more traditional tobacco products including cigarettes. Mark Kohlman, the college’s chief financial officer, replied “no comment” when asked after the June 3 council meeting if Kenyon College would support Tobacco 21 policy. He said the college follows village ordinances when adopted.
No local municipality has yet to adopt a Tobacco 21 policy, although the county health department has been making Tobacco 21 presentations to villages and has not presented one to Mount Vernon City Council. County Health Commissioner Julie Miller recently said the county hopes to have Tobacco 21 policies adopted in Knox County by the end of the year.
In other action, Gambier Village Council:
•By resolution, approved its membership into the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC);
•By resolution, approved its membership into the Knox County Land Bank;
•By resolution, urged Gov. Mike DeWine and state legislators to restore the Local Government Fund to pre-Recession levels, noting those levels have decreased by half since 2011 from 3.68 percent of state General Fund revenue to 1.66 percent.
•Approved village liability insurance coverage for 2019-2020 with the Ohio Plan for $11,736.
•Approved codification of ordinances with American Legal Publishing for $12,000.