Brenda Pohlman, Public Health educator, updated commissioners on the growing trend of electronic vaping devices and the growing use of these devices by young people at the December 3 County Board meeting.
Pohlman brought a number of devices, most of which had been confiscated in local schools, to show the variety of devices available. The battery operated electronic devices are used to heat up and vaporize a liquid which is inhaled and exhaled. These devices were first marketed as smoking cessation products that are less harmful than cigarettes and cheaper. Unfortunately, youth start on these devices and often end up also using cigarettes.
The devices can be as cheap as 99 cents or as costly as $65. They are readily available and most are cheap. All contain a liquid, most use prepackaged solutions which contain nicotine, which makes them additive. The liquid can contain glycol, which can be used with other drugs. Nicotine is poisonous especially to small children.
Users include people across the age spectrum, but these devices are predominately used by youth. A survey of 11th graders showed that 19% use conventional tobacco of some kind and 30% use an electronic device.
Commissioner Mitch Lentz asked why a minor is more likely to be charged using alcohol than tobacco. Sheriff John DeGeorge explained that tobacco and e-devices are easier to hide. He said it is more difficult to enforce underage consumption or use of these devices. If a minor is stopped and the officer can smell alcohol, there is probable cause to search a vehicle or pat down the individual. If a vaping device is not visible to the officer there is no probable cause for a search. Chairman Duane Bakke commented the real answer is a person is not impaired by smoking.
Pohlman added that chewing products and edibles are popular, including flavored mini-cigars and unregulated CBD gummies/candy. CBD is a nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp. Youth have jumped from traditional tobacco products to flavored products (over 5,000 flavor combinations). Eighth graders were surveyed and asked where they were getting these products; sources included friends, a family member or someone they asked to get some for them.
Youth in rural areas or who live in poverty are more likely to get hooked on tobacco. Youth use menthol flavored products more than any other group. The legal age to purchase cigarettes or vaping products is 18.
Commissioner Randy Dahl called for more education in schools and through the media to make kids more aware of the dangers. Pohlman noted some schools include this kind of information in their curriculum. Kids as young as second grade talk about vaping.
The county ordinance (adopted in 1997) does not include e-products. Pohlman reported that there have been 2,290 lung related illnesses nationwide related to vaping. In Minnesota there have been three deaths and more than 40 nationwide. This phenomenon is still being studied. Eighty-two percent of these cases had THC and 62% had nicotine detected. THC is the main active ingredient of cannabis.
Fifty-four cities and counties have looked into raising the legal age for purchase of these products to 21. Fourteen have looked into controlling flavors. Jessica Erickson, director of nursing, asked what direction the board wanted them to take. Lentz insisted the younger the age a kid starts using, the higher the addiction rate. DeGeorge said they are building a vaping component into their school programs. If we can get the message to kids not to try these products in the first place, they will not get addicted.
Dahl suggested the county ordinance should be updated to include vaping, to consider it the same as smoking. County Administrator Bobbie Vickerman will look at policies in place in other counties starting the process to update the ordinance.
Other business in brief
•County Attorney Brett Corson reviewed the work and accomplishments of his office over the last year. He said it is a team effort, working with the sheriff’s office and other departments. Corson, who has been with the county since 2002, requested a salary of $123,000 for 2020.
•Sheriff DeGeorge explained he wanted to simplify the process and discuss both his salary request and that of his Chief Deputy Lance Boyum. The goals and accomplishments of the sheriff’s office reflect on both of us. DeGeorge reviewed 2019 goals and accomplishments and listed goals for 2020. He took 95% of the average (compiled by David Drown and Associates) for 2019 and added 2.5% for a cost of living increase. His request was for $108,045 (includes assistant Emergency Management stipend) and a request of $92,712 for Boyum.
•Approval was given to pay Emergency Automotive Technologies, Inc. $3,290.58 for equipment and setup of the new 2019 unmarked Dodge Charger administration car.
•Kristina Kohn, Human Resources, reported that Karla Ambrose, who recently accepted the assessor position, has declined the position due to personal reasons. It has been difficult to find an assessor with the necessary AMA (Accredited Minnesota Assessor) requirement and the ability to get the required SAMA certification (Senior Accredited Minnesota Assessor) in a certain period of time. Kohn said they have been working with direct recruitment to find someone with the necessary qualifications. Vickerman was given the authority to pursue options with other counties.
•County Engineer Ron Gregg reported they opened bids yesterday for several projects. Approval was given for the lowest bid for each project. Bridge replacement (culvert) on CR 101 in Jordan Township was awarded to Minnowa Construction, LLC for the amount of $107,753.15 using LOST funding. Bridge replacement (3 sided box) on CR 104 in Pilot Mound Township was awarded to Minnowa for the amount of $169,826.85 using LOST funding. Bridge replacement (box culvert) of Canton Township bridge south of CSAH 30 was awarded to Minnowa for the amount of $247,780.95. The 2020 Bituminous Seal Coat projects were awarded to Scott Construction, the lowest bidder, for the amount of $1,049,952.94.
•Approval was given for the purchase of a 2019 Mack Granite 64FR tandem axle snow plow truck from Nuss Truck and Equipment for $130,974. It was decided to not accept the low trade offer for a 2005 Sterling. Snow plow equipment for the new truck will cost $115,578 from Universal Truck Equipment. The total cost for the new snow plow truck with equipment without trade will total $246,552.
•Final payment was approved in the amount of $22,186.44 to Icon Constructors, LLC for bridge replacement project on CSAH 12, Carimona Township. Most of the bridge replacement cost of $443,728.69 was paid for with federal dollars along with bridge bonding dollars.
•Approval was given to accept screening grant funds in the amount of $23,173 from the state of Minnesota Department of Human Services. Services are for mental health screenings/referrals for children within child welfare and juvenile justice populations.
•The next County Board meeting will be held on December 17.