UPDATE: Duluth city councilors are considering raising the legal tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21.
However, they didn’t vote on that at tonight’s city council meeting, as it was just the first reading on the proposal to change the tobacco purchasing age.
Councilors did however vote six to two on changing the 30 day enforcement period to 120 days, in order to allow businesses enough time to adjust to the changes if the age hike is eventually approved.
A final vote on the proposal won’t come until late February or March at the earliest.
For the first time, Duluth city councilors will consider raising the legal tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21.
Those in favor of the age hike to legally purchase tobacco in Duluth say it’s needed, thanks to dangerous new trends among teens.
“This is really needed in the city of Duluth, and actually I think across the state and across our nation, because we’ve seen an epidemic in teen vaping use and tobacco use in our schools,” said city councilor, Zack Filipovich.
So just how common is teen tobacco use in Duluth? According to councilor Zack Filipovich, it’s more common than many realize.
“In Duluth specifically, over 1 in 5 high school students smoke tobacco products,” said Filipovich.
Meanwhile, businesses who deal with tobacco sales are preparing to take a hit. Mike Wazwaz, owner of the West Duluth smoke shop, says he feels that the proposal is well-intentioned, but it won’t stop teens from pursuing their tobacco needs.
“My worry, though, is that age group 18-19-20 again will just go to other localities, to find what they are looking for. Or they’ll just go look online, so therefore while the law is well-intentioned to help, and help the community, will it work? That’s up in the air,” said Wazwaz.
Wazwaz says he does have some concerns for his bottom line if the proposal is approved.
“I think definitely it will hurt, but we have a well-established store. Business is up and down always, but I’m sure that we’ll survive,” added Wazwaz.
The city council is expected to discuss the topic one more time before making a decision, which is expected in late February or early March.