Elk River City Council members don’t seem to support a “T21” ordinance proposal that would raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in Sherburne County to age 21.
Local and county officials across Minnesota have heard about the T21 initiative, which is meant to cut out teenage tobacco use by raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
Supporters of the movement say it will help curb harmful habits and reduce time and effort spent on enforcing tobacco-related offenses in young adults.
Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney and Amanda Larson, manager and CHS administrator of Sherburne County Public Health, presented the T21 proposal to the Elk River City Council on Aug. 5.
Larson said there is less cigarette usage and more vaping among juvenile users. Heaney said students sometimes vape in class and post pictures on social media platforms of themselves doing it.
Heaney proposed a county T21 ordinance that would affect unincorporated areas of Sherburne County and the city of Zimmerman, which uses the county as a regulatory agent.
She said T21 proponents want Elk River and other Sherburne County cities to join the effort.
Larson said T21 laws have already cut usage by 25 percent and Heaney added that localities that have enacted those laws see fewer sales to teenagers, less use by them and spend less time enforcing them.
Heaney said the ordinance that will go to the Sherburne County Board will make selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 a misdemeanor in Sherburne County.
Larson pointed to Hennepin and Benton counties, which have already enacted T21 ordinances and an upcoming vote in Wright County as examples of mounting support for T21 ordinances.
Council Member Jennifer Wagner was skeptical. She said Elk River’s location could prove a challenge because local users have access to nearby communities, where they could lawfully purchase vaping products, and simply bring them back to Elk River.
Council Member Garrett Christianson wondered aloud about which age a person now has to be in order to be called an adult — 18 or 21? He pointed to the legal age to vote or serve in the military — 18 — and the legal age to buy alcohol — 21.
Mayor John Dietz was the lone supporter among members of the council. Dietz, who proposed the city study similar ordinances about two years ago — said he thinks it wrong to “do nothing” but acknowledged that the rest of the council doesn’t share his view.
Forty Minnesota cities and counties have raised the tobacco age to 21 including Benton and Isanti counties as well as Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, Mound, New Brighton, Plymouth, Richfield, Rockford and Rogers.
Sherburne County will discuss the topic at an upcoming work session.
Wright County has heard a presentation from Sarah Grosshuesch, the health and human services public health director for Wright County, about the Tobacco 21 ordinance but has not taken a vote. The Monticello School District Superintendent, Eric Olson, has come out publicly in support of the measure.