Tobacco21

Image via Tobacco21

A little more than 55 miles west of Rochester, the city of Waseca became the second city in the region to adopt ordinances that raise the age of buying tobacco to 21.

It is the 21st community in the state to become a “Tobacco 21 community” and the second in southern Minnesota to adopt the new policy. The North Mankato City Council adopted the ordinance in early 2018 and it will go into effect in just a few weeks on Jan. 1, 2019.

POLL: Would you support raising the age to buy tobacco in Rochester to 21?

Waseca became the second city in the region to adopt ordinances that raise the age of buying tobacco to 21.

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Other communities in the state that have adopted similar ordinances include In order of passage, Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, Shoreview, Falcon Heights, Minneapolis, St. Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale, Hermantown, Brooklyn Center, Otter Tail County, Mendota Heights, Eden Prairie, and Pope County.

With last week’s announcement that Waseca was to become a Tobacco 21 community, other communities are now considering the same move because of Waseca’s leadership, Liz Heimer, a health promotions specialist with the American Lung Association said. The organization does education in communities across the state.

“We like to provide the education and then, of course, hopefully, they’ll want to take action once we show them that there is problem here and here is a solution,” Heimer said. Heimer said the group doesn’t go in and bring about ordinances but rather begins conversations with interested community members while helping them create something that fits their community. Heimer said there aren’t policies that are “one size fits all.”

In Olmsted County, Public Health Director Graham Brigg said they were researching the public health implications of putting something like Tobacco 21 through the county and trying to gauge local support for it.

“We’re really still in research mode,” he said. “If we saw widespread vocal support here in Olmsted County, we could consider moving forward at the county level.”

The FDA recently announced that e-cigarette use has reached epidemic levels.

“The most concerning issue we see right now in Public Health is the dramatic increase in use of e-cigarettes in teens,” Briggs said. “A recently released report indicated that 21% of 12th-grade students in the United States had used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days during 2018. This is a nationwide trend, and it appears that Olmsted County is a part of this rapid increase in use.”

Multiple people interviewed by the Post Bulletin spoke of research that found that most people who smoke started smoking before age 18 or 19.

Heimer said that by enacting Tobacco 21 ordinances “we are reducing youth access to these products.”

“It’s rare for people to start smoking after age 21. If you avoid tobacco use up to age 21, the vast majority of those people will never smoke,” said Dr. Taylor Hays, medical director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center.

While the Nicotine Dependence Center’s focus and mission is to treat patients, Hays said on a personal level he has been involved in testimony before policy boards on the topic of smoke free indoor air laws and calls the Tobacco 21 initiative a “very promising move.”

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