In a unanimous vote, the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners approved the Tobacco 21 ordinance at Tuesday morning’s meeting.
The commissioners heard an updated report on the ordinance from public health director Diane Thorson on the ordinance, which included the fees for businesses caught selling those under the age of 21.
“We are sending a strong message to our community, which is that the community norm is that people should not begin to think about purchasing these products until after they reach the age of 21,” Thorson said.
Any businesses caught selling tobacco to those under the age of 21 would be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, $400 for a third offense and $750 for any offense thereafter.
Thorson also decided to add a provision that grandfathered in anyone born after Dec. 31, 2000, allowing those who are currently 18-20 and may already be addicted to tobacco or nicotine products, avenues to quit their habit other than cold turkey.
“Because we know there are persons who are already addicted, we are grandfathering it in so that this first year it will impact 18-year-olds and then each year it will be 19-year-olds and then 20-year-olds until it gets to everybody,” Thorson said. “For those who are addicted, we want to connect them to the quitline resource that is available. We have free tobacco cessation resources available.”
The ordinance was also given a new name before the vote went through to make it more clear that the ordinance restricts the sale of tobacco, not the use. The new title is as follows, “Public Health Regulation on the Distribution of Commerical Tobacco Products to Persons Under 21.”
The county board will meet at a later date to combine the new and old county ordinances surrounding tobacco and fines. It was also clarified during the meeting that anyone caught reselling tobacco products to minors would not be fined under this law, only businesses. Those who resell tobacco products are already under penalty for selling tobacco products without a license if caught.
According to Thorson, it is possible public health will continue to look to restrict tobacco usage via laws.
“We’ve talked about some additional tobacco-related laws. I think our first step will be to align our tobacco sales ordinance with this so the age requirements are the same and so the fines are the same,” Thorson said. “Beyond that time will tell.”
The tobacco 21 law is to be put into effect Jan. 1, 2019.