County seeks ideas on raising age for tobacco purchase
Olmsted County could join a growing number of Minnesota communities raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.
County commissioners will likely hear arguments on both sides of the issue Tuesday morning as they hold a public hearing on the proposal made by Olmsted County Public Health.
"I really think this is a very serious public health issue," Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden said during a March 19 meeting in support of considering the change. "We always run this really delicate line between not wanting to intrude in people’s lives and at the same time wanting to protect the health of the whole population."
"Sometimes we have to do things that encourage people to take the steps that will ensure them a better health outcome," she added.
At least 29 communities in the state have raised the age for buying tobacco products to 21, including Albert Lea, which took action on the issue Tuesday. In addition, state lawmakers are considering bills to increase the age limit statewide.
The Olmsted County proposal, which would extend to e-cigarettes and other devices used for delivering nicotine through vapor, also known as "vaping," is seeking to reduce use among youths.
Graham Briggs, director of Olmsted County Public Health Services, estimates the county sees approximately $91.8 million in smoking-related health care costs each year, which eclipses the county’s $13 million public health budget. He said increased tobacco use among youths will potentially increase costs in the future.
"There is concern that children exposed at younger ages are at higher risk," he said, noting studies show that younger people are more susceptible to the addictive properties of tobacco and nicotine.
Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Michael Muñoz said raising the age for legal purchase of vaping products will likely reduce students’ access, since 18-year-old students are currently providing the products to their younger peers.
"It is a huge problem," he said. "We are battling it every day."
The Rochester City Council is also expected to take up the issue. On Monday, council members plan to vote on a proposed resolution to support the county’s consideration of raising the age limit.
"I think it’s in the community’s best interest," Council Member Patrick Keane said after Council Member Annalissa Johnson made a request this week to consider supporting county action.
The county board’s hearing on the subject is scheduled during its 9 a.m. meeting Tuesday in the board chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.
Meetings during the week of April 1 include:
• City Council committee of the whole, 3:30 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.
• City Council meeting, 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the Government Center.
• Rochester Public Library Executive Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday at Bravo Coffee, 111 S. Broadway No. 219.
• Rochester Public Library Finance Committee, Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in meeting room C of the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.
• Public Utility Board, 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Rochester Public Utilities board room, 4000 E. River Road NE.
• Park Board, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE.
• Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers of the Government Center.
• City Council’s 2020 budget priorities advance, 12:30 p.m. Friday in the Rochester Area Foundation’s community room, 12 Elton Hills Drive NW
• Administrative Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 4 of the government center.
• Physical Development Committee, 8 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the government center.
• Board of County Commissioners, 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center.
• Housing and Redevelopment Authority special meeting, 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the government center.
• Housing and Redevelopment Authority administrative committee, 9 a.m. Wednesday in conference room 4 of the government center.
• Housing, Health and Human Services Committee, 10 a.m. Wednesday in conference room 4 of the government center.
• Youth Commission, 4:45 p.m. Wednesday in the government center cafeteria.
• Public Health Services Advisory Board, 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Whitewater/Cascade Conference Room of 2100 Campus Drive SE.
Rochester Public Schools
• School Board, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.