Tobacco age limit proposal gets public hearing in Minneapolis

Opponents claim over-regulation can hurt retailers

Al Schoch
May 14, 2018 - 6:51 am

Entercom Media

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The public will have a chance to weigh in on a proposal in Minneapolis to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products, from 18 to 21.

The public hearing in room 317 at Minneapolis City Hall takes place Monday afternoon in front of the Public Health, Environment, Civil Rights, and Engagement committee. 

The full council could vote on the proposal as early as May 25.

Supporters of the ordinance believe limiting access will keep teenagers from getting addicted to tobacco. Some small business owners say it will hurt their bottom line.

"Tobacco sales from the age of 18 to 21 represent an extremely, extremely small portion of overall tobacco sales for corner stores," said council member Andrew Johnson, who authored the proposal. "It's going to have a very negligible impact."

Johnson said small business owners he's talked to have other concerns, such as over-regulation.

"The question is whether harming retailers is appropriate, because it's not banning possession (of tobacco) by youths," Meghan Shea of the Coalition of Neighborhood Retailers, told WCCO's John Hines Monday before the public hearing. "This is happening on top of a whole lot of other regulations cast by the city."

If the ordinance passes in Minneapolis it would go into effect August 1. Other Minnesota cities with similar laws are Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, North Mankato, and Plymouth. Just last week the cities of Shoreview and Falcon Heights added themselves to that list.

"I would expect it to (pass)," said Johnson. "We don't have too many proponents for big tobacco. What we want is for our teenagers to have less access to cigarettes and for them to have a fighting chance when making decisions as adults over whether or not to start a habit that we know has massive health consequences."