The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance Tuesday night making it illegal to smoke cigarettes within a specified distance of playgrounds at parks and public or private schools while kids are present.

The ordinance originally specified 10 feet, but an amendment increasing that distance to 20 feet passed with a 9–1 vote.

Anchorage Assembly member Dick Traini introduced the ordinance, along with another that could potentially raise the minimum age to buy tobacco, in the hopes of improving children's health.

According to Traini’s second ordinance, 95% of adult smokers nationwide begin the habit before they turn 21, and ages 18 to 21 are the critical period, when many people move from experimental smoking to daily use.

The ordinance states that, since 2005, more than 300 cities across the country have raised the minimum legal sales age of tobacco to 21. Sitka made that change last year.

If passed, it could raise the minimum legal age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 19 to 21. Those who testified at the meeting said they were worried about potential punishments for underage kids caught with cigarettes or tobacco products.

Assembly members voted to postpone the discussion to June 4, citing concerns it did not include e-cigarettes. Another ordinance was introduced to tackle that issue, but it was also tabled for discussion on that day.

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