JANESVILLE — The Janesville City Council voted in favor of supporting Waseca County to pass Tobacco 21.
The resolution passed three-to-two with Mayor Mike Santo and John Sprengeler as nay votes. Though there were two nays, the board was in agreement something needs to be done to stop tobacco use at a young age.
The City of Waseca already has the Tobacco 21 policy in place within city limits, but the resolution passed by the Janesville Council encourages Waseca County to pass a countywide policy. A Tobacco 21 policy means anyone under the age of 21 will no longer be able to purchase tobacco, though individuals 18 plus may still use the products.
At the Oct. 28 council meeting the council was not yet sold on the idea of Tobacco 21 due to some concerns of chasing revenue from town and some members thinking this is a state issue not a local policy to pass. The conversation continued at the Nov. 12 meeting, ultimately leading to the resolution of support.
“My feelings are we should just adopt it, because if we wait on the state, on the federal, they have a lot of big donors they have to wait on and stuff seems to be put on the back burners or disappear,” Councilor Russ Wiebold said. “I feel pretty comfortable attempting to pass this resolution.”
“I think there is nothing wrong with putting a little heat on it either,” Councilor Melissa Kopachek said. “It’s not saying that’s what we’re going to do, but its saying we’re going to support it.”
Janesville City Administrator Clinton Rogers reminded the council that Waseca County regulates tobacco licenses in Janesville, and it has the final say on the Tobacco 21 policy.
“Essentially we support any act to reduce tobacco use, especially in youth. We’re not making any decision that could really be brought forward,” Kopachek said.
“Trust me I’m all for it and my big concern was ‘Are we chasing revenue away from Janesville?’ But there’s nobody in Janesville that sells the vaping,” Councilor Ron Cummins said.
At the previous meeting Cummins had asked the question if the policy could separate tobacco products and vaping products. There was still no answer given at the recent council meeting.
“I would be OK with losing the cost just because I think it is important to take a big stand morally where you are. It would suck, yes, but I think it says more … It would be a loss financially, but it would make an impact,” Kopachek said.
Cummins pointed out those who are under 21 would be able to drive to some surrounding towns to get the products.
“I’m not against this, but I think this should be a state issue,” Mayor Santo added.
“We all kind of agree that the state doesn’t do things, so if they’re not going to do it, the least we can do is send a resolution to the county, and it’s up to the county to decide, but I think if we give a good faith effort in this … I think this is a statement,” Wiebold said.
Kopachek and Wiebold both spoke of Tobacco 21 passing locally as being a good statement to the state to push for a statewide law, instead of it being pushed aside again and again.
Tobacco 21 has been adopted in areas surrounding Janesville, with Waseca, Mankato, Albert Lea and many others approving the ordinance. In 34 communities throughout Minnesota, Tobacco 21 has passed, with more than 475 cities and counties in the United States and 29 states with policies.