By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Proposed county ordinance to raise tobacco purchase to 21


September 12, 2019

For more than a year the Carlton County Board of Commissioners has heard concerns of the rising use of vaping and the negative influences on the County’s youth. Earlier this summer the County Board instructed the County Attorney to draw up a proposed ordinance to regulate purchases of any tobacco product by anyone under the age of 21.

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on September 3, a proposed County ordinance was presented. Little comment was made during this first draft. No hearings or a recommendation for County Board approval has been called for at this time.

“There has been an explosion of vaping use by our youth,” commented Commissioner Gary Peterson. “Health impacts are on the rise for those using these new tobacco products. There are studies that say that use of commercial tobacco products by the young has risen 26.4%. Something has to be done.”

Statistics show that 90% of young people begin smoking before they reach the age of 18 and that almost no one starts smoking after the age of 25. According to the proposed ordinance, tobacco companies use menthol, mint, fruit, candy, and alcohol flavors as a way to target youth and young adults, making it difficult to quit.

Each licensed business who sells tobacco products must check a government-issued photographic identification to verify the purchaser is in fact 21. Failure to follow this ordinance will impose fines on those businesses selling tobacco products. Young people under the age of 21 who try to purchase tobacco products may be required to attend tobacco-related education classes, diversion programs, or possibly community service.

“Let me make this clear,” stated County Attorney Lauri Ketola. “The current proposed ordinance does not have criminal impacts to those under 21 who try to buy a tobacco product. At this time, the ordinance does not criminalize people of legal age when they sell tobacco products to young people under the age of 21. This is a proposal that we start with and we will see how it evolves as we get input from the public.”

New licenses for the sale of tobacco products will not be granted to a new retail establishment within 1,000 feet of a youth-oriented facility. Examples of these facilities are schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, and parks. If an existing business that sells tobacco products is sold, the new regulations of operation and location take effect.

This first draft of a tobacco ordinance raising the minimum legal age for purchase of tobacco products to 21 included several attached comments from local public health activists. For example, in 2015 it was noted that the Institute of Medicine released a report that raising the legal tobacco age to 21 would result in a 12% reduction of tobacco use which would probably mean 223,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer.


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