Following the same decision by Forest Lake in August, Scandia approved an ordinance Oct. 15 making it illegal to sell tobacco products in Scandia to anyone under the age of 21.
With little discussion from the council, the ordinance passed unanimously and will raise the legal age from 18 when it takes effect on Oct. 23. The ordinance places the bulk of the legal responsibility on the shoulders of local tobacco and vape sellers “so no one under the age of 21 has a criminal record because of smoking,” said Councilwoman Patti Ray, who championed the measure. However, buyers under 21 will still be charged with a misdemeanor, with the council to determine the penalty, she explained.
The Tobacco 21 change, as such ordinance requirements are often called, was just one of multiple changes to the city’s tobacco rules approved by the council. Other changes require child-resistant packaging for certain liquids, expand compliance checks, and restrict future tobacco license issuances with minimum distances away from youth-oriented facilities and other tobacco retailers.
The city received many letters supporting the measure, and multiple community members attended the meeting to voice their support during the public hearing preceding the vote.
“My kids are in their 30s, and thank goodness they never started smoking. Please protect the health of the rest of the kids. [Scandia] is a wonderful city,” resident Elaine Schumacher said.
The ordinance is aimed at protecting children and teenagers who are often the tobacco industry’s target audience. Statistically, 94% of adult smokers started before they were 21, and 81% started before they were 18, according to the American Lung Association.
Ray believes the ordinance plays an important role in Scandia’s responsibility for the youth who live in the community.
“We need to protect our children against big industries such as Big Tobacco and vaping. The tactics they are using to directly message teenagers and children is frightening,” she said.
While the ordinance doesn’t mention e-cigarettes and electronic tobacco delivery devices, the council agreed regulation around such devices is another issue that needs to be discussed. The council plans to take up that conversation at a future work session.
Though Forest Lake already approved Tobacco 21 earlier this year, Scandia is still an early adopter. So far, fewer than 50 communities in the state have passed a similar ordinance.
Other items discussed at the meeting include the approval of the Internet Action Committee and the advertisement for members for the committee, along with the approval of the city’s 2040 comprehensive plan update.