tobacco 21

MANKATO — The Ecig Crib has stopped selling to any customers under age 21.

The Madison Avenue e-cigarette retailer doesn’t only sell the tobacco products it now is prohibited from providing to anyone under drinking age. It sells other tobacco products not specifically prohibited.

But manager Zach Sproles says he’s not taking any chances.

“I’m just trying to err on side of caution,” he said Wednesday, 17 days after the city of Mankato’s Tobacco 21 ordinance went into effect.

The city’s other tobacco retailers also are exercising prudence.

The Mankato Department of Public Safety recently completed compliance checks on 41 businesses. Underage buyers who were between 15 and 20 years old who were working for the department attempted to purchase tobacco. Every single seller refused.

“Everyone passed. We’re happy to report that,” said police Sgt. Chris Baukol.

Mankato’s new ordinance prohibits retailers in the city’s limits from selling any form of tobacco or electronic delivery devices to anyone under age 21. It does not make it illegal for 18, 19 and 20-year-olds to possess tobacco but does make it illegal for adults over age 21 to purchase tobacco for someone who is underage.

Mankato is now among 39 Minnesota cities and counties that have such an ordinance. The cities of North Mankato, St. Peter and Waseca implemented the enhanced age restriction before Mankato.

The owner of the Eagle Express said he hasn’t seen an influx of young adult customers at his gas station in Eagle Lake. Jim Anderson said he’s only noticed one new customer who now comes from a neighboring community to purchase tobacco.

Sproles said recent sales are down 15% over the same time last year at his store, though he can’t say for sure how much of a role the new ordinance has played in the dip.

The Ecig Crib manager said the ordinance’s language isn’t clear whether he is allowed to sell CBD or vaping devices or accessories for CBD users between age 18 and 20, so he is refusing those sales as well.

Even with signs at the entry, Sproles says he’s having to turn away a few young adults each day.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know about it,” he said about the new ordinance.

Sproles said he has been giving disappointed customers a civics lesson. He said he was among only a few people who attended Mankato City Council meetings to speak against the ordinance when it was proposed. He’s encouraging customers to get more involved in their local government.

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Staff Writer

Public safety and K-12 education reporter 507-344-6354