A lengthy discussion over whether to pass a motion to draft an ordinance in the Tobacco 21 was held Tuesday night at the city council meeting.
Following the discussion between council members and community members, a motion was passed by a 3-2 vote.
The proposed ordinance will make it illegal for any person under 21 to buy tobacco products.
Local advocates supporting the Tobacco 21 movement were in attendance and were able to speak their minds and give their opinions to council members. T
hose supporting Tobacco 21 made their cases with the dangers of smoking, and the prominence of vaping among minors and the health risks associated with vaping.
Personal anecdotes were also shared among those in attendance.
Healthcare professionals, concerned parents, and a pair of St. James High School students all voiced their opinions to the council. Members of the Mayo Clinic and American Lung Association spoke in support of Tobacco 21.
Those who opposed the motion mentioned concerns over whether the proposal would actually deter minors from acquiring tobacco products through other means, whether through travel or older siblings.
Vaping products are currently being made in the shapes of household and school items, making the monitoring of such products potentially difficult.
Another area of concern would be the impact on businesses who sell tobacco products, including Casey’s gas stations and Family Dollar.
The speed as to how quickly the council was moving forward was also discussed, as it took Mankato 23 months to decide to become a Tobacco 21 area.
Questions were also brought up with the involvement of the state.
Currently, government at the state level is looking at cities and towns to see if there is enough of a movement to get a tobacco resolution done at the state level.
While the general Tobacco 21 does not have provisions to punish those who buy or sell to those underage, the city does have the power to prosecute those if it is included in the draft.
The first draft of the ordinance will be ready by the first meeting of October, with the final revisions made for the second city council meeting.
If the city council passes the ordinance, St. James will become the 44th city in the state of Minnesota to be a Tobacco 21 city.
St. Peter, Mankato, North Mankato, Waseca, and Albert Lea are some of the cities in southern Minnesota that are Tobacco 21 areas.