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Letter: If teens can't get tobacco, they won't start smoking

As a Chemical Health Coordinator for the Detroit Lakes Schools and a youth advocate I would like to say thank you to our City Council members for their careful consideration of the Tobacco 21 ordinance. This law would benefit our teens and their long-term health by preventing retailers from selling tobacco products to anyone under 21.

Most people who start smoking and become addicted to tobacco do so before the age of 21. Therefore, anything we can do as caring adults to stop kids from becoming smokers is a positive thing for our children.

The Tobacco 21 ordinance is a logical ordinance that will only strengthen existing efforts by parents, educators and other youth advocates to curb or halt the use of tobacco products by our high school students. This ordinance should be seen as a coordinated effort by our council members and the youth advocacy community to provide a common-sense approach to stemming tobacco use among our teens.

I often have conversations about tobacco with students. Earlier this summer I was having a conversation with a 16-year-old student, about smoking. He smokes and started at the age of 14. I thought I would visit with him about the Tobacco 21 ordinance and he was quite informative. He told me that, if something like that had been in place when he was 14, he would never have started.

This student knew 18-year-olds at that time, but not 21-year-olds, so it would have been very difficult for him to find someone to buy him tobacco. Today, he regrets ever starting and wishes he could quit, but it is too hard. He has come to accept that he will forever be a tobacco user.

If our goal is to curtail tobacco dependency, we as a community need to tackle this issue together. Tobacco 21 will be controversial, but the fight is worth it ... these are our kids and they're worth it. Doing nothing is not an option.

Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that our kids are given a good start in life. Keeping our kids safe from tobacco is one way we can help them lead healthier, more productive lives. By making raising the tobacco age to 21 we are helping to ensure that kids don't start smoking or using tobacco in the first place.

I will be closely following the progress of this ordinance and support and encourage our city council members to pass a Tobacco 21 ordinance for the good health of our kids and our community. - Angie Horner, Detroit Lakes

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