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Letter: Tobacco 21 will actually create more young smokers in Detroit Lakes

As the push for raising the smoking and vaping age continues, I feel as a Detroit Lakes high school graduate who recently turned 21, I am obligated to share some insight on how this issue will affect my age group.

When I was in high school, I smoked as a way to deal with stress, and I knew people who smoked. I also knew people who drank, and getting alcohol at that age was not an issue for anyone who wanted it. Nor were other restricted substances for that matter.

Most people I knew got cigarettes from the same people they got alcohol from, like parents, siblings, or others over the age of 21. For this reason, I do not think raising the smoking age will prevent anyone under 21 from smoking if they want to. If anything, it will probably just make people mad and cause them to smoke out of rebellion.

A Tobacco 21 law in DL specifically, is going to be totally ineffective in keeping 18-20 year-olds from accessing tobacco products, as it's as simple as a quick jaunt out of city limits for an 18-year-old to get a pack of smokes. What Tobacco 21 will do in DL, is prevent 18-to-20-year-olds from accessing vapor products—a 95 percent safer alternative to smoking —as these products are sold within city limits.

By passing this policy, the city would actually be creating more harm for young people who already smoke by preventing them from access to a safer alternative.

Minnesota smokers already drive to Fargo to stock up on cartons of cigarettes to avoid Minnesota taxes.

Under Tobacco 21—as the supply and demand changes—what's to stop an 18-year-old from driving to Fargo to get cheap smokes, and driving back to DL to capitalize on the newly created business opportunity? Tobacco 21 seems like a great way foster more black market tobacco sales in the high school.

If the city really wants to help young people quit smoking, they most certainly should leave the age to purchase vapor products alone. Vaping allowed me and many of my peers to quit smoking at an early age. If I was not allowed to buy vapor products before the age of 21, I would still be a smoker.

When I turned 18, I got my first vaporizer, and quit smoking immediately as a result. I have since been smoke-free for three years, and feel great. I am so thankful that I was able to use vaping to quit smoking, before smoking caused any problems in my life. I no longer need to use nicotine either, as vaping allowed me to use nicotine-free options.

I'm worried that if the city takes away the option for young adults like me, to switch from smoking to vaping, that more people will keep smoking and cause unnecessary harm to themselves. Vaping saved me from addiction and harm caused by smoking, and I want others in my position to be able to have access to the same opportunities.

What will become of the 18-to-20-year-olds who are already using vapor products to abstain from cigarettes? They will no longer be able to access smoke-free alternatives within the community and will be forced back into smoking. Tobacco 21 is going to create more smokers. Is this really what the city wants?

A lot of my friends that are under 21 say, "If I'm old enough to die for this country, I'm old enough to make my own choices," and I couldn't agree more. I think it is unfair to take away rights from people you expect to fight for yours.

I believe Tobacco 21 is a dangerous policy that will probably backfire like every other prohibition in history has. When you tell a someone not to do something, it tends to make them want to do it even more. It's basic human nature.

Arbitrary laws are not an effective means of controlling behavior, instead they teach people to disregard laws they don't agree with. When it comes to substance use among youth, honest and accurate education is far more effective. These "public health" groups should be focusing their time and resources on addressing real problems in the city.

I am a Detroit Lakes resident, and this measure does not have my support, nor the support of any of my friends this will affect. We hope the city council takes the common sense approach and votes this down.This type of social engineering, political agenda does not belong in our community.—Alexander Stokes, Detroit Lakes

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