Berkley to mirror federal law, increase age to purchase tobacco products to 21

By: Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2021

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OAKLAND COUNTY — In an update to comply with federal law, the city of Berkley is moving to restrict the purchasing of cigarettes and other tobacco products for people under the age of 21.

At its June 21 meeting, the Berkley City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that will raise the age of people eligible to purchase cigarettes, tobacco and nicotine products to 21. The previous age at which people could buy these products was 18.

The change is based on federal legislation that was signed at the end of 2019. City Manager Matt Baumgarten stated that the Berkley Public Safety Department had been working with City Attorney John Staran to bring the city into consistency with federal legislation.

“We are able to write tickets in the unfortunate situation where somebody is in violation of the law,” he said. “We can write those tickets locally and address them as such here instead of having to write them under the federal statute. It is a quick update and it just brings us in line with the national standard.”

When asked if there were any state laws Berkley needed to comply with, Staran said that while there are laws, they lag behind what was passed by the federal government.

“The state law is lagging behind in third place,” he said. “We’re not waiting. We are amending our local ordinance and, hopefully, the state will catch up too.”

As of now, Berkley is the only city in the Woodward Talk coverage area that has made the age limit official in its ordinances.

For the city of Ferndale, City Manager Joe Gacioch said the law hasn’t been brought to his attention before, but he added that he plans on reaching out to Berkley to discuss the issue further.

While he didn’t have any comment on any future with the change, Gacioch said that when it comes to regulating uses like alcohol and tobacco, the city typically follows guidance from federal and state standards.

“The federal government sets the standard around age, and they typically would attach eligibility for federal resources for compliance,” he said. “So it behooves a city and/or state to be compliant with the federal standards for those kinds of age requirements if you’re going to be eligible for any kind of federal-related grants or aids or funding. That’s really the stake that they carry.”

Huntington Woods City Commissioner Jules Olsman also said his city hasn’t had any conversations on the age restriction. For Olsman, personally, he explained that he would be in favor of following in Berkley’s footsteps.

“My view of that would be if the federal regulation is 21, then that should be what cities should follow, but it has not come up,” Olsman explained. “My guess would be that knowing Huntington Woods, if it did, that’s what people would expect us to do.”

A Pleasant Ridge official could not be reached before press time.