Goodyear City Council

Goodyear City Council unanimously voted to raise the age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes to 18. Left to right; Joe Pizzillo, Wally Campbell, Bill Stipp, Mayor Georgia Lord, Sheri M. Lauritano, Laura Kaino  and Brannon Hampton.

After the landmark Goodyear City Council vote on Sept. 23, which raised the age of purchasing e-cigarette and tobacco products to 21 in the city, the West Valley View emailed questions on the topic to Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord and the council: Bill Stipp, Joe Pizzillo, Sheri Lauritano, Wally Campbell, Brannon Hampton and Laura Kaino.

The questions and their answers (Stipp and Lauritano did not respond):

Q: When did you first consider vaping to be a problem?

Lord:  “It’s been a rising concern of mine since the products became available and we began to see vape cartridges littering our public parks. 

“As time went on, it was apparent that we needed to expand our current no-smoking ordinance to include vape and vape products. Our police officers have been receiving an influx of calls involving kids  vaping on school property.”  

Hampton: “I’d say probably when the police chief mentioned the kids were getting the materials underage. And also the high schools were having a significant number of calls.”

Pizzillo: “The city of Goodyear Police Department has an amazing school resource program and our officers work in close collaboration with our schools. Over the last few years, our officers have been responding to more and more vaping calls. Last year the problem was particularly acute, and the Goodyear Police Department responded to hundreds of vaping related incidents in our high schools. That is when I knew we had a big issue.”

Campbell: “I have been concerned about vaping and the impact on our kids for some time. In the spring, I was contacted by a principal because vaping had become a crisis at their school. I spoke to the police chief, and he reported that our school resource officers were responding to hundreds of vaping calls. This situation had become untenable and the council needed to take action to address this crisis in our community.”

Q: What about those who say “kids can just go to Avondale or Buckeye to buy vape stuff”?

Lord: “We hope we’ve created an inconvenience for our young adults and they become discouraged by the additional efforts needed to purchase these products.” 

Kaino: “We understand that there are other ways our youth can purchase vape products, but hope our neighbors will take a look at this issue and make decisions for the benefit of their communities. Nevertheless, the Council was united that this was the right decision for Goodyear.

Hampton: “If someone did ask me that, I’d probably say, ‘We’re doing what we can in Goodyear.’”

Q: How do you respond to people who say “this is just another example of the government being invasive on our rights”?

Hampton: “I’d say I think it’s about the same as alcohol and other things. It’s a health issue. I don’t think we’re breaking ground too aggressively.”

Lord: “I respect their comments and everyone has the right to their own opinion. However, when you regularly hear from schools, parents and the overall community about their concerns and urging us to take action, I think we made the right choice in passing the ordinance.” 

Q: How do you respond to people who say “at 18 someone can die for our country but they can’t choose to buy vapes or cigarettes?”

Lord: “I am a military wife and two of my children also served our great nation, so I understand these comments. The ordinance was passed to keep tobacco and vape products out of the hands of the younger generations. We hope older siblings will be less inclined to purchase these products for their younger siblings and contribute to this epidemic.” 

Kaino: “This aspect of the ordinance was the most difficult for me, personally. All three of my children enlisted in the military at 17 and two went to war in the Middle East. Despite their service, they could not drink alcohol even though they were adults. What convinced me of the need to change the minimum age was the connection between the older teens and minors. There are some 18 year olds still in high school, and we need to ensure they are not buying vaping or tobacco products for minors. This is a major crisis that’s finally getting national attention, and hopefully sparking more conversations in families, schools, clubs and churches. I asked my 13-year-old grandson who attends a public K-8 school in Peoria about vaping and he knows that kids vape at school. This problem is bigger than Goodyear.”

Q: Why did you think it was important to act on this, rather than waiting for the state or federal government to take action?

Lord: “When it comes to protecting our children, we can’t waste time. Vaping is a growing epidemic; people are dying. Besides, there is no guarantee of when or if our state or the federal government will take action.” 

Kaino: “As local leaders, parents and grandparents, we felt an urgency to act. When the state failed to pass legislation last year, we knew that it would be a long wait for them to go through the process again with no guarantee of success. For us as a non-partisan council, it’s not about politics, but rather the health and well-being of our children.”

Campbell: “I believe a statewide solution would be best and we would be happy to work with the legislature and the governor to address this issue. However, when our schools and police come to the council with a crisis, we are not going to wait for the state to act, we are going to do what is best to protect the kids in our community.”

Pizzilo: “When it comes to protecting our kids, we are not going to wait around for the state or federal government to act. Our council wanted to take the lead and be proactive to address this serious issue.”

Hampton: “Because we saw it as an imminent issue that was already affecting our community.”

Q: What positive response have you received?

Lord: “We’ve received praise from parents, health providers, and our public safety officers all thanking us for taking action on something that is affecting the community on a daily basis.” 

Pizzillo: “I have received very positive comments from residents thanking us for taking action to protect our children. I believe that it is also very important that we continue our educational outreach so kids and parents are aware of the health risks and dangers of vaping.”

Campbell: “Overall, the response has been extremely supportive. I believe our residents are happy that our city is taking the lead on this issue, and I am proud that we are proactively responding to the concerns of our parents, teachers and schools to protect our kids.”

Q: What negative response have you received?

Lord: “There has been limited negative response to our decision, but the majority of the comments received are positive.” 

Pizzillo: “During our council meeting, a local business suggested that instead of raising the age of vaping sales we should fine the parents of children vaping in school. I disagree. I believe we must educate our students and parents about the risks of vaping, and do everything we can to keep these dangerous products away from our kids.”

Q: The age to purchase tobacco in Goodyear was also raised to 21 - do you think this was overshadowed by the vaping issue?

Lord: “The fact of the matter is that vaping is the topic of discussion across the nation, so there may be some truth to this statement. This is why it was important that a 90-day educational period be included so that our community and business partners are well informed of these changes.” 

Hampton: “I think there was some confusion about people about that. The vaping is the more attention grabber. I’m not 100% sure if people ended up realizing it (raised) the tobacco age as well. It’s pretty clear in our ordinance we raised them both up.”

Q: What do you think the major challenges and/or costs will be to implement this? 

Lord: “The Goodyear Police Department is taking the lead to educate our business partners on the recent changes. Officers will meet, in person, with those who sell tobacco products to make sure they are well-educated on our laws. In addition, school resource officers will continue to visit with students and teachers to make sure they are aware of our new ordinance and the dangers of vaping and smoking. There will be no extra costs. Because of the 90-day education period, we don’t anticipate any major challenges.”