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Olmsted County Eyes Tobacco 21 Policy

March 27, 2019 08:38 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Throughout most of Minnesota, at the age of 18 people can legally smoke. However, more and more communities are joining the Tobacco 21 movement; which raises the tobacco purchasing age to 21.

“Most adults who smoke, in fact 95% - 98% of them started before they were 18 years old,” said Dr. Taylor Hays, the Medical Director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center.

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“We are hearing it from all of our superintendents that they are having a very serious problem with student’s vaping in school,” said Sheila Kiscaden, an Olmsted County Commissioner. “If they aren't in contact with 18-year-olds who are in school, then students aren't as likely to have access to the products.”

Olmsted County is the latest to consider the T-21 policy. Six superintendents in Olmsted County submitted a letter to the board of commissioners, strongly in support of the ordinance. In the letter, the superintendents said “Despite education and awareness, the problem [teen tobacco use; particularly vaping] persists”.

Kiscaden says this issue goes beyond youth tobacco use. “We [Olmsted County] have lead the way on health issues on a lot of things including tobacco products,” she said. “So this T-21 -- to me, not everyone agrees, but to me -- is very consistent. We take a long-term look at ‘What is the health of the entire population? How do you avoid disease? How do you prevent disease?’ We know that tobacco and nicotine is addictive and has bad outcomes.”

However, the age people are able to purchase tobacco products is a controversial topic. After Albert Lea adopted the policy on Monday, many took to social media to voice their frustration and disapproval.

One comment read “So 18, 19, 20 year olds can enlist and protect council members rear ends so they can infringe on their right to choose??? Albert Lea Council, if your past decision making wasn’t questionable it certainly is now!!” … another read “Then no one in Albert Lea should be allowed to serve our country until they are 21. Go ahead and run that up the chain. If you are not trusted to smoke or have a drink until you are 21 you shouldn’t be allowed the kind of responsibility that comes with serving our country. Funny, we trust an 18 year old with that.”

“Most adults who say they are smokers say they wish someone had been able to tell them, or they wish they could go back and talk to their teenage self and say "Don't do this. This is going to cost you’,” said Dr. Hays. “But children, teenagers can't really estimate that cost.”

On Tuesday, April 2nd, at 9 a.m. the public is invited to voice their opinions on the T-21 policy at the Olmsted County board meeting in council chambers.

After the public hearing, the board will vote on the T-21 policy.

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Hannah Tiede

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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