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Minn. city snuffs ordinance restricting sale of tobacco to buyers under 21

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — After almost two hours of testimony Tuesday, Sept. 12, some of it quite emotional, the Detroit Lakes City Council opted to take no action on a proposed ordinance to raise the tobacco sales age to 21 within city limits — though the vote was not unanimous.

At the conclusion of the public hearing on the proposed ordinance, Alderman Ron Zeman introduced a motion, seconded by Alderman Barb Voss, to not give the ordinance a first reading.

"If this were a statewide law I'd be on board with it, but from a city standpoint I'm not sure how effective it would be," said Voss.

Zeman expressed similar sentiments, noting that a local age limit of 21 and up would have "no teeth" if 18-20 year olds could just drive 3-5 miles over to the next town to purchase tobacco.

Alderman Jay Schurman agreed, noting that passing such an ordinance in the absence of a statewide law would be "penalizing local businesses."

"I don't smoke, never have," said Zeman, but added that he had a problem with the mixed message sent by an ordinance, as written, would restrict the sale of tobacco to those age 21 and up — but not place a similar legal restriction on the usage of tobacco products.

"That's my biggest problem with this ordinance... it's kind of contradictory," he said.

Zeman's motion passed on a 6-2 vote, with aldermen Bruce Imholte and Dan Josephson as the dissenters.

"Detroit Lakes has always been a leader," said Josephson, adding that he was not on board with the idea of waiting on the state (or other cities) to take action before passing a local ordinance.

Imholte, meanwhile, asked City Attorney Charles Ramstad whether it would be possible to remove references to e-cigarettes and "vaping" products from the proposed ordinance. Imholte was referencing the fact that much of those testifying in opposition to the proposed ordinance at Tuesday's public hearing were objecting to the fact that its language was "lumping in" vaping products together with tobacco.

Ramstad said that if the council wanted to exclude vaping products from the proposed ordinance, he would recommend that they "start from scratch" and draft an entirely new ordinance rather than trying to strike all references to vaping or e-cigarettes from it, as they had been included throughout the document.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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