As the Otter Tail County commissioners work on their decision for the proposed Tobacco 21 ordinance, cities around Minnesota have passed their own versions of a Tobacco 21 law. Most recently the city of Minnetonka.

Minnetonka is the 12th city in Minnesota to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21. Minnetonka voted unanimously on Sept. 17. Like the concern in Otter Tail County, Minnetonka’s concern came from teen use and addiction.

“Penalties for youth purchase, use and possession of tobacco products (often called PUP) have not been proven to reduce youth tobacco use and they open the door to selective enforcement against young persons of color,” public affairs manager for ClearWay Minnesota, a partner for the Minnetonka Tobacco 21 organizers, Laura Smith said. “Ultimately, none of Minnesota’s 12 Tobacco 21 communities has expanded PUP penalties beyond state law, concluding that it was best for their community to support a responsible retail environment rather than penalize youth.”

Smith cited a National Academy of Medicine study which looked at the effect of a Tobacco 21 law and found that it would have the most impact on the age group between 15-17.

“The National Academy of Medicine reports that if the tobacco age was raised to 21 nationally, there would be a 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among 15- to 17-year-olds, 223,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer,” Smith said.

Smith said that now that Tobacco 21 laws are in place, new studies can be done to look into the impact of Tobacco 21 on these communities that have enacted them.

Minnetonka is one of 12 cities in Minnesota that have enacted Tobacco 21 laws since May 2017. Edina was the first city to vote on the law. The other cities in the state include St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Shoreview, Falcon Heights, Roseville, Ritchfield, St. Peter, and Minneapolis.

“The recent increase in youth tobacco use is driven by a nearly 50 percent increase in e-cigarette use,” Smith said. “This increase has raised alarm bells for communities and made efforts to raise the tobacco sale age even more important. As more communities tackle the problem of youth nicotine addiction by raising the tobacco age, the goal is to create momentum for a statewide Tobacco 21 law.”


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