From: Helen Bagshaw
I am a Winona County resident and a public health professional, and am very concerned about youth tobacco use in Winona County. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States. Every day, about 2,300 young people under age 18 try their first cigarette. Each year, nearly half a million Americans will die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Another 16 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, nicotine exposure can harm brain development during adolescence. Teens are especially susceptible to nicotine addiction and the harmful effects of nicotine on the developing brain. Nicotine is addictive and disrupts attention and learning in adolescents. Ninety-five percent of lifelong tobacco users start before the age of 21.
In Winona County in 2016, 17 percent of 11th graders use e-cigarettes, 10 percent use cigarettes, five percent use smokeless tobacco and over 23 percent use “any tobacco.” The rates of tobacco use among young people in our community are rising, and the use of vaping products is increasing.
Removing access to these products from our youth will go a long way in preventing future generations from a lifelong addiction. Implementing a “Tobacco 21” ordinance that raises the legal tobacco sale age to 21 years of age from the current 18 years of age can make a difference in our community. “Tobacco 21” is a national campaign. Since 2017, 21 cities and counties in Minnesota have passed “Tobacco 21” ordinances restricting tobacco purchases to those 21 years and older.
I would strongly support raising the tobacco sales age to 21 in Winona County. If you are concerned for the health and wellbeing of our youth and want Winona County to be the next community in Minnesota to pass a “Tobacco 21” ordinance, please join me, along with other local groups, in the coming months to advocate for a “Tobacco 21” ordinance in Winona County.