Pequot Lakes became the first city in Crow Wing County to officially raise the age to legally buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

Though a federal law was enacted at the end of 2019 raising the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang asked the city council on Thursday, March 5, to amend the city code as well.

“We want to implement this Tobacco 21 so we have local control over it,” Klang said.

The goal is to decrease rates of commercial tobacco use by youth, which have risen in recent years due to more local youth using vaping tobacco products, Klang wrote in a letter to licensed tobacco retailers in the city. He said retailers support the change.

Changing the city code allows Pequot Lakes police to monitor compliance and enforcement of sales to people ages 18-21, Klang said.

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Retailers are not allowed to sell any tobacco product - including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes - to anyone under 21.

The mayor and two council members present March 5 agreed to adopt a revised ordinance amending part of the city code regarding license and business regulations for tobacco sales, changing the age from 18 to 21 to buy tobacco products.

Council members Scott Pederson and Mimi Swanson were absent.

Klang said other cities in Crow Wing County will likely take similar action.

At the state level, the House Health and Human Services Finance Division recently heard a bill to adopt Tobacco 21 statewide. This bill would ensure Minnesota adopts federal Tobacco 21. Despite the federal law, Minnesota still must update the state tobacco age. The legislation would ensure Minnesota updates its tobacco age compliance, enforcement, signage and penalties.

In other police department action, the council acknowledged the resignation of Sgt. Chad Turcotte, who worked for the city for six years, and agreed to begin the hiring process for the position.

Kate Petersen has been serving as interim sergeant since December, after Turcotte took a leave of absence in November for back issues.

If the sergeant is selected from within the department, the city will begin the hiring process for that internal position.

The city council met two days later than usual this month because the presidential nomination primary was held Tuesday, March 3, the council’s normal meeting date.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.