BEMIDJI, Minn. - At a meeting last week, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners were introduced to a proposed ordinance to raise the legal tobacco buying age to 21.

The county’s Public Health Division Director, Cynthia Borgen, said 17 Minnesota cities and counties have raised the tobacco purchasing age to 21.

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According to a report from the Minnesotans For a Smoke-Free Generation, provided by Borgen, an age requirement of 21 in the state would result in an estimated 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among teens age 15-17 and 30,000 fewer young smokers in Minnesota.

Commissioner Keith Winger said he was in favor of the ordinance.

“I think this is a really good thing to consider,” Winger said at the meeting. “I know young people, at age 18, start smoking and chewing and in the later years they try to quit and find it extremely difficult.”

Commissioner Tim Sumner, though, questioned the county’s role in implementing such an ordinance.

“I personally feel that this is a government overreach,” Sumner said. “I think Beltrami County should refer to personal choice for people of legal age. If people between 18 and 21 can enlist in the armed services, why can’t they purchase tobacco products?”