Rice County Public Health Director Deb Purfeerst encouraged the County Board of Commissioners today to pass a Tobacco 21 (T21) Ordinance among other suggestions.  Purfeerst said the Rice County Tobacco Ordinance was last updated in December of 1997, "Ideally some of this would be done at a statewide level but it hasn't been so I think at some point you've got to move ahead and do what's right."

Purfeerst outlined six suggestions from Public Health with the assistance of the point person on the topic at her department Tracy Ackman Shaw.  The suggestions included updating ordinance legal definition language to bring into compliance with the Minnesota Tobacco Modernization Act of 2010 and state regulations.

Including setting a minimum age of 18 for selling tobacco products.  Currently there is no minimum age to sell tobacco in the Rice County Tobacco Ordinance.  Purfeerst said, "It's more than 20 years old, time to blow the dust off of it and get it shaped up a little bit we think.  As a reminder currently our board licenses only five retailers in Rice County, Pilot Travel Center, Willinger's Golf Club, Lake Country Convenience and Bait, Dennison Depot and Boonies Beef and Brew."

In discussing Tobacco 21 which would raise the age to purchase tobacco products in Rice County to 21 Purfeerst pointed out currently 53 Minnesota cities and counties have passed such legislation, "There's another 17 counties and 25 cities currently working on passing T21 so this isn't anything new that's happening.  People are moving ahead with this. Research also predicts a 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among 15 to 17 year olds with T21 regulation."

Ackman Shaw added, " Goodhue County is in the process of working with the Health and Human Services Department on that and Steele County has talked about or mentioned it because Owatonna just passed theirs a couple months ago, and so now Steele County is interested in moving and learning more about that as well."

Other suggestions by Public Health included restricting the sale of single or individually packaged tobacco products such as "cheap cigars and cigarillos."  No sample was also recommended even though current state law allows this in tobacco only shops.  Northfield has had "no sampling" in place since 2014.

During the meeting Katy Reed of the Rice County Chemical and Mental Health Coalition presented Ackman Shaw with a Prevention Champion Award from their department.  She was nominated for the award by the Northfield Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention.

Ackman-Shaw said she was shocked to receive the award and reiterated her passion for the topic of tobacco prevention for young people especially with the current vaping craze.

Tracy Ackman Shaw Receives Prevention Champion Award from Rice County Chemical & Mental Health Coalition. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld