The North Mankato council heard 30 minutes of testimony on Tuesday night on the issue of raising the purchasing age for tobacco from 18 to 21.
In a packed city hall that included doctors, students, those from the businesses community and residents with shirts that read ‘Tobacco 21, the majority of citizens who spoke were in favor of the new proposed regulation.
“I have seen many of my classmates at my school, smoking in the bathroom,” said Emily Landgraff a student at Dakota Meadows Middle School. Adding,”This policy would make it harder for my classmates to get access to tobacco. The tobacco industry is targeting me and my classmates by making more flavorful tobaccos. I’m asking you as a targeted teen to support this policy.”
Meanwhile, a few spoke in opposition of the change, including former councilman Kim Spears who said he felt it was micromanagement of private affairs and added that no matter what, people will continue to smoke.
“I was a smoker myself and I was a smoker until I was 40 years old, quitting was hard. But it was not impossible. It was a decision I made, just like it was a decision that I made to smoke. I think that’s part of being a human being. Part of being a free citizen of the United States is to be able to make these decisions.”
Mayor Mark Dehen commented that he was impressed by the turnout.
“The research continues to develop, but I think there’s pretty strong backing and research in support of this effort and the effect it will have on the long-term health of our youngest students.”
While the new ordinance would not criminalize the activity, it would limit items from cigarettes to tobacco related devices. City Officials say the new rule is intended to compliment the Minnesota Clean Indoor Act that was passed in 2007.
As for if there will be enough votes to pass the resolution, Dehen said he feels there is enough interest in seeing it move forward.
“I’m hoping that same interest and the opportunity for these folks that come down and present to Mankato will stimulate that same kind of interest on the Mankato side and we can move this forward for the entire community.”
North Mankato will take up a vote on amending the purchasing age from 18 to 21 on February 5.
The Mankato City Council will hold its public hearing on the issue on February 12.