Beltrami County Raises Tobacco Purchasing Age To 21
The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners first brought the discussion up about raising the legal age to purchase tobacco product from 18 to 21 back in December. The board heard feedback from the public and decided to pass the new ordinance last night.
“The county board serves as the public board of health – that’s what a lot of people don’t know as well. So in their role as a board of health it’s their job to really look out for the health of the general public, so that was what this was all about,” says Kay Mack, the Beltrami County administrator.
Advocates for the ordinance hope that by limiting the access of tobacco to young adults, it will help the products stay out of the schools and out of the hands from kids as young as 15. They also help it will help reduce the risk of secondhand smoke throughout the community.
“What we’ve learned over the last few years is that youth tobacco use rates are increasing rapidly and they’re really stalling the progress that we’ve been making over the last twenty years, and one of the reasons for that is the increases of the use of e-cigarettes,” says Cynthia Borgen, the public health director for Beltrami County.
“I hear tobacco users of all ages say they wish they would’ve never started, so by raising the age from 18 to 21 we are limiting access. We’re not controlling our youth. We’re not punishing them. We’re just protecting them, which is the goal for this policy,” adds Sarah Lehman, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at Sanford Health.
More than 20 Minnesota counties and cities have already passed a similar ordinance. Beltrami County will be one of the first counties to enact the ordinance up north.
For one local smoke shop, Smokes4less in Bemidji, they say they’re not too worried about the new ordinance’s effect. They say they do get quite a few 18-21 year old customers, but they understand the cause.
Sean Conlon, an employee with Smokes4less in Bemidji, says, “As someone in the smoke shop business at the moment, it really – I don’t think will effect us too much, tobacco sales-wise. I personally think it’s going to be benefit to try to prevent younger kids from smoking.”
There’s no timeline on when the ordinance will officially go into effect, but officials say it will not be in the extremely near future.
Borgen adds, “It also send a strong statement that we as a community do not support the use of tobacco, by, especially by our kids, and we’re willing to take a step that helps moves us forward in the that direction.”
The county board will begin discussing implementation at the next board meeting.