AG: Ann Arbor violated state law by raising tobacco purchase age to 21

Photo by Steve Neavling.

The city of Ann Arbor violated state law by banning the sale of tobacco to people under 21, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wrote in a legal opinion Thursday.

On Aug. 4, the Ann Arbor City Council voted 9-2 to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1.

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Schuette wrote that the ordinance “directly conflicts” with a state law – the Age of Majority Act – which “prohibits treating these young adults differently from persons 21 years and older with respect to their legal capacity to purchase tobacco products.”

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Schuette said the state Legislature may change the legal age to purchase tobacco, but until that happens, municipalities are barred from making it illegal to sell cigarettes or chewing tobacco to anyone 18 years or older.

The attorney general’s opinion, however, is not binding, but it gives opponents of the ordinance more leverage to file a lawsuit.

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Ann Arbor, which is the first and city to raise the legal age to sell cigarettes, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.