To the editor:
As the 7-12 school counselor at the Minnewaska High School, parent of a current and future students of the Morris Area School District, and Morris resident, I strongly support efforts to increase the tobacco sales age to 21 in Stevens County. I had the opportunity to receive a small glimpse of the movement in Pope County a few months ago- one that recognized Pope County as the second county in Minnesota to increase the tobacco sales age to 21. I am immensely proud of the students who showed up, spoke out, and influenced the final vote and made a difference in the small community. Nearly all adult smokers started before they were 21. If youth don't smoke by the time they are 21, they likely never will. While increasing the tobacco sales age to 21 won't rid us of the overall problem, it certainly helps create one more barrier for our youth to have access to this disguised killer.
In my experience both at Minnewaska High School and previous role as the Associate Director of Admissions at the University of Minnesota, Morris, I can attest that tobacco products are still very appealing to teenagers, especially electronic cigarettes. I think it's easy to forget that many college students are teens, too. It seems like more students have been caught using e-cigarettes, especially the JUUL, than regular cigarettes. It is compact, comes in a wide variety of flavors, and doesn't leave a haze like traditional cigarette smoke. In fact, the MN Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that nearly one in five high school students is a current e-cigarette user. Big Tobacco is getting smarter and sneakier by the day. These devices are easily mistaken for flash drives, white out dispensers, and basic pens. Our youth are destroying their bodies right under our noses and the tobacco industry is cashing in daily. It's time to attack this problem as a community.
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine which means, yes, they are dangerous. No amount of nicotine is safe for adolescents. In my work, I've realized that kids think they are indestructible, can quit whenever they feel like it, and that e-cigs simply aren't harmful. Then they get hooked and can't quit, despite the negative impact on their health. How many smokers do you know who say, "I'm so thankful for that day I started up?"
Your action to increase the tobacco sales age to 21 is a positive step towards keeping tobacco products out of the hands of our youth. Think of your own children/grandchildren and please think of mine, too.
Let's boost the tobacco sales age up to 21 and continue making Stevens County a healthy place for our young people.