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Originally published Saturday, October 5, 2019 at 05:28p.m.

When Arizona House Rep. Thomas “T.J.” Shope, Jr. wrote to the state’s attorney general that age restrictions on tobacco poducts are pre-empted by state law, he takes a step back in time.

Shope, a Republican from Coolidge, wants to step back to a time when municipalities allowed states to simply lay down blanket laws for all communities, large and small, to follow, without a chance to go further.

When it comes to public safety, Shope takes an approach that’s archaic and wrong. And in light of what seems to be concerning now about vaping, his approach, as it applies to Cottonwood, Goodyear and any other cities, towns or counties that have enacted common-sense tobacco legislation.

Shope says “cities and towns and county governments lack any legal authority to established age restrictions on transactions involving tobacco or vapor products -- irrespective of whether such measures are preempted by state law.”

The lawmaker — who also happens to the Speaker Pro Tem of the Arizona House — has it completely backward. The state should not undo what a city like Cottonwood has done; it should look at Cottonwood as a leader, asking what principles drove such an age restriction, and examine it to see if it would be helpful to make it a statewide provision.

The House (and the Senate) should emulate what Cottonwood, Douglas and Tempe have done. Cottonwood’s ordinance should not, in the words of Cottonwood City Attorney Steve Horton, have to “peacefully coexist” with conflicting state law.

Rather, state law needs to “peacefully coexist” with the ordinances currently found in Cottonwood, Douglas and Tempe.

We don’t need Big Brother leading the way on this one. Big Brother needs to take a page from the collective books of some of its little brothers.

It would not hurt Shope, Gov. Doug Ducey or any other state leaders to admit, once in a great while, that a small municipality had a great idea.

Coolidge, Shope’s hometown, is almost the exact same size as Cottonwood, in population.

Vaping products account for a tiny percentage of revenue at Shope’s family’s grocery store,but he should be standing up for local autonomy, public health and safety and the well-being of small businesses. He should reverse his position.

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