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ANCHORAGE (AP) — The Anchorage Police Department has continued issuing citations to minors for possession of tobacco and vaping products despite a new ordinance ending the penalty, officials said.
The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance in July called Tobacco 21 to help reduce teen smoking, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
The ordinance included a change that went into effect Aug. 20 to stop issuing citations to minors in possession of tobacco and vaping products.
Anchorage police have not followed the intent of the city's legislative body and have instead relied on state code to continue penalizing minors in possession, officials said.
Officers issued 23 citations for minors in possession of tobacco or vaping products between Aug. 29 and Oct. 30, department spokeswoman Renee Oistad said.
Prior to the assembly's decision, police usually used state code anyway. From Jan. 1 to July 1, officers wrote 44 citations under the state code and two under municipal code, Oistad said.
Assemblywoman Suzanne LaFrance was surprised by the police action.
"I definitely need to go to APD to understand that perspective, because that's not what my intent, the intent of Tobacco 21, is. It's deliberately not punitive toward young people," said LaFrance, who co-sponsored the ordinance with assembly members John Weddleton and Austin Quinn-Davidson.
Tobacco 21, which officials said was modeled after national policy created by health organizations, passed in a unanimous assembly vote.
The assembly initially considered increasing the possession penalty, but research showed that approach to be ineffective. The members voted to increase the penalty for selling to minors, LaFrance said.
"Removing the section that had to do with minors in possession was very deliberate," LaFrance said.