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HIGH SPRINGS — A county-wide effort to limit tobacco sales to persons 21 years of age or older appears to have run its course in the city of High Springs. During the Nov. 14 High Springs City Commission meeting, City officials voted unanimously to opt out of the County's “Legal Sales Age 21 ordinance” on first reading of the ordinance.

A second reading of the ordinance in its entirety is anticipated at the Nov. 26 City Commission meeting.

Despite statistics and impassioned pleas by some residents, others see the ordinance as one more way in which the government is interfering in the public’s personal lives. Some also believed that penalties on tobacco sellers was not the way to address the issue.

Chris Rhodes addressed commissioners to make a strong case against approval of the County's ordinance. On the other hand, Tobacco Free Alachua President Victoria Gibney and another member of the organization, Greg King, talked about how youth who begin smoking at a young age continue to be life-long smokers.

King read a letter by High Springs resident Sarah Catalinato, also a member of Tobacco Free Alachua, in which she expressed her dismay at not having the City Commission support the County ordinance.

Although everyone on the High Springs Commission seemed to agree they would not like to see kids smoking at an early age, they expressed their belief that people have to make decisions for themselves and deal with the consequences of their choices.

Commissioner Linda Jones said she would like to see tobacco use stopped, but thought she could not tell an 18-year-old, who can make decisions about whether to serve in the military or who to vote for, that they cannot purchase a pack of cigarettes.

Mayor Byran Williams said he didn't see how raising the age to 21 would result in people not smoking. Commissioner Scott Jamison said at some point, people have to be accountable for what they do. Mayor Williams suggested more education about the dangers of smoking would be a better way to go, in his opinion.

In a roll-call vote, Commissioners voted unanimously to opt out of the County's smoking ordinance. Both sides will have another chance to sway the Commissioners to their way of thinking at the Nov. 26 second and final reading of the opt-out ordinance.

Due to the holidays, the City Commission meeting schedule has been modified and will meet only one more time before the end of the calendar year, on Dec. 12.

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