'Tobacco 21' laws being considered in three more metro area cities

Arden Hills, Eden Prairie and Brooklyn Center will discuss Tuesday

Sloane Martin
November 13, 2018 - 11:26 am

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Three more Minnesota cities are considering raising the age to purchase to tobacco from 18 to 21.

It's on the agenda Tuesday night in Eden Prairie, Arden Hills and Brooklyn Center. Currently, 15 cities in Minnesota, including Minneapolis, have passed ordinances. Brooklyn Center is listening to public comment and taking a final vote.

The momentum continues for advocates who point to data that shows limiting access to tobacco products at a younger age, means teens are less likely to pick it up. They call tobacco use a public health issue.

"It even surprised us a little bit how much momentum (there is)," Director of Research for the Association of Nonsmokers Minnesota Betsy Brock said. "The issue makes a lot of sense. We're talking about the No. 1 cause of death in the country so it makes sense to put more restrictions on it, treat it a little bit more like alcohol, raise the age limit."

Opposition continues to come from smoke shop owners, as well as people who say e-cigarettes are an effective way to stop smoking and worry about limiting access. 

Advocates are also facing an uphill battle in Greater Minnesota. Of the 15 cities that have passed the ordinance,  only three—North Mankato, St. Peter and Hermantown—are outside the metro area.  A measure narrowly passed in St. Cloud, but Mayor Dave Kleis said he would veto it.

Some lawmakers have voted against the age restriction, instead urging the state to take on the issue.

"I think some day we will, I hope so," Brock said of a statewide law. "Probably not this session and maybe not the next session, but I think if we really look at smoke-free bars and restaurants, it started at the local level and it eventually became a statewide law."

The Minnesota Department of Health says one in five high school-aged teens use e-cigarettes — a 50 percent increase since 2014.