SIOUX CITY | A panel of Sioux City teens wants to use the legislative process to curb tobacco use among minors.
Members of the Mayor's Youth Commission are looking to ban the addition of any new tobacco retailers within 1,000 feet of local schools. They requested the change at Monday's City Council meeting.
The commission consists of 192 high school students at Sioux City's public and parochial schools. It was created to allow local teenagers an outlet to advise the city on matters relating to area youths.
"We visit convenience stores, liquor stores and smaller grocery stores all the time, and we get exposed to a lot of tobacco marketing," said Andrew Lindquist, the commission's finance director. "This increases the amount of kids that are likely to be addicted."
Lindquist, 18, said teens are more likely to become smokers if they have easy access to tobacco retailers. If those stores are located farther away from schools, he said it might lower the level of tobacco exposure some students face.
"This would at least limit the amount of advertising kids see during the day and during their after-school activities," Lindquist added.
The city already has a similar policy governing alcohol retailers, preventing sales within 300 feet of schools. Community Development Operations Manager Jeff Hanson said a 1,000-foot buffer zone may be problematic in some parts of the city.
"A thousand feet would be pretty significant," he said. "The average city block is probably 316 to 330 feet long."
He said some local schools are located near commercial zones, and an ordinance like this could disrupt development there.
"We want to be able to map those existing schools and look at what the districts have in mind for future schools," he said. "We want to look at those and determine what 300 feet looks like, what 500 feet looks like — determine the actual impact zones for commercial areas."
Councilwoman Rhonda Capron said she doesn't expect retailers to have an issue with a rule like the one proposed.
"Everyone already in place would be allowed to stay," she said. "But these people don't want to sell to kids. We have a lot of responsible retailers out there who want to do the right thing."
No vote was cast on the proposal, but the council could introduce an ordinance for consideration after city staff conduct further research.
Youth Commission member Araceli Lopez, 15, said the ordinance could have a positive impact even if it doesn't have the proposed 1,000-foot requirement.
"I just hope to reduce the possibility of young people having access to tobacco and being able to smoke, or getting it from their friends or something," she said. "I wish more adults were aware of how easy it is for students to access tobacco just by asking friends to get it."
Brandon Hundley, 17, said the effort's driven by concern for his peers.
"I want them to know there are students like us trying to help them stay away from these dangerous drugs," he said. "I hope they know we care."