It’s still far from reality, but the minimum age to purchase tobacco could be going up.

Litchfield City Council reviewed a tobacco ordinance draft during its meeting Nov. 18, and among the decision made was increasing the legal age to purchase tobacco 21.

The council voted 5-2 to approve that change in the draft, which still must go through numerous other steps, including a public hearing, before a new ordinance was enacted.

Increasing the minimum age from 18 to 21 years old was one of a host of items reviewed by the council in a draft that was prepared by City Administrator David Cziok. The changes were based on discussions during a September workshop session in which the administration and council members tried to reach a consensus on several points that have been debated for months, including the tobacco purchase age.

Council member Darlene Kotelnicki moved to approve increasing the minimum purchase age to 21, and Sarah Miller seconded the motion. In the vote, councilors Betty Allen and Eric Mathwig and Mayor Keith Johnson joined the majority. Council members Ron Dingmann and Vern Loch Jr. voted against the change.

City Council members began trying to tackle an update to the tobacco ordinance earlier this year, after receiving a tobacco license application. The council asked for input from Meeker-McLeod-Sibley Public Health services in April, but delayed any further action as it waited to see of the Minnesota Legislature might address a statewide change.

The Minnesota House passed a bill that would have increased the purchase age to 21, but the Senate did not act on it.

So, the item came back to the City Council in August, and following a public hearing the first reading of an ordinance that would increase the tobacco age to 21 passed 5-2. But in a somewhat unusual act, the City Council unanimously rejected the second reading.

After that, Cziok suggested that the City Council should step back and review its current ordinance and suggestions from other sources before attempting to tackle any changes. It did that at a late September workshop. Taking all of the consensus change items and working with City Attorney Mark Wood, Cziok put together a section-by-section review for consideration at the Nov. 18 meeting.

The council then voted on any proposed changes, and the ordinance will be amended to reflect those decisions before it comes back for public hearing and first and second readings, and ultimately, a final decision.

Among the other ordinance’s other suggested changes:

  • There will be no minimum distances from youth facilities. It was suggested that no tobacco sales should be allowed within 1,000 feet of a youth facility. But definition of “youth facility” could be “a little too weak,” Cziok suggested, and enforcing the 1,000-foot restriction from a city park “is tricky.”
  • The council agreed on a 350-foot restriction between tobacco sales facilties Though there are two existing conflicts to this, Cziok said, it would still provide protection “so we don’t have them lined up on every block on both sides of the street.”
  • No ban on flavored tobacco or e-cigarette products will be included.

The ordinance will come back to the City Council for review and possible approval at a December meeting.

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