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Olmsted County passes Tobacco 21 ordinance

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) – Olmsted County Commissioners voted to raise the purchasing age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 Tuesday morning with a 4-3 vote.

Previous Story: Olmsted County to hold public hearing regarding a tobacco purchase age change

The vote came after many area students, doctors and school workers advocated for the change in a public hearing. 

“Big tobacco tries to fool us. To get us to think these products are not harmful. They do not think about our future when they do this…all they think about are the profits they can make,” said Century High School Senior Tanner Mechura.

Others who advocated for the change shared personal testimonies about smoking at a young age or knowing someone whose life was cut short because of smoking.

Those who did not support the ordinance questioned how the rule would be enforced and its overall impact.

“Are we really willing to arrest or place a severe fine on a cashier for selling a pack of smokes to a 20-year-old just because the gas station is in Olmsted County?” Said Commissioner Mark Thein of the 7th district.

“I don’t honestly believe that raising the age to purchase tobacco or vaping products to 21 will accomplish anything beyond making us feel good.”

The passed ordinance also prohibits the distribution of tobacco products for free or at nominal prices for promotional purposes.

The change will go into effect on July 1st.

Stephanie Podulke (1st District), Ken Brown (2nd District), Gregg Wright (3rd District) and Sheila Kiscaden (6th District) voted for the ordinance.

Matt Flynn (4th District), Jim Bier (5th District) and Thein voted against the measure.

Jack Keenan

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