The Mankato City Council voted on an ordinance Monday night intended to increase the age to purchase tobacco products to 21.
When the vote was tallied….
“Mr. Frost? Yes.”
“Mr. Laven? Yes.”
“Mr. Dieken? No.”
“Miss Foreman? Yes.”
“Miss Melby-Kelley? No.”
“Miss Kunkel? No.”
“Mayor Anderson? No. Motion fails.”
In a lengthy public hearing on the matter, which saw dozens of people speak, Dr. Greg Kutcher, the former CEO and president of Mayo Clinic Health System’s southwest Minnesota region and current medical director of the system’s hospice program, supported the measure – among other reasons because said cigarettes are more deadly than harder drugs. “We all know that opioid use is an epidemic,” he said, “But I bet you it would surprise you to learn that more people that struggle with opioid addictions will actually die from tobacco-related disorders than the opioid itself.”
CEO of Mankato Clinic Randy Farrow talked about the economic impact of tobacco use, particular given the rising cost of health care overall. “People that have smoking related diseases, that’s a huge driver of those costs and those are costs that we all bear,” he explained, “In terms of taxes, higher premiums, and, not to mention, lost productivity that we see in the workplace from smoking related disease.”
An attorney speaking on behalf of Holiday Station Stores opposed the measure, saying it would harm local retailers, and also asked, “If you were to pass this, I would ask that retail be given at least 60 days to comply so we can redo our training materials, retrain our employees. We need to reprogram our point of sales system so when we scan Ids it will look for age 21 as opposed to 18.”
Just ahead of the vote, Mayor Eric Anderson spoke at length about the measure and his opposition to it. “I will ultimately take the position, I believe, that my colleague in St. Cloud, who reserved the ability in veto – Mayor David Kleis – who as 12 years on the council of St. Cloud has only twice vetoed his council and I will not be supporting this,” he said.
North Mankato passed a ban on tobacco sales to people under age 21 a week prior, but the ordinance change was contingent on Mankato doing the same.