Last week a bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers introduced a bill in the Minnesota House to raise the state tobacco sale age to 21. Minnesota would become the sixth state in the nation to pass a Tobacco 21 law, which aims to protect youth from tobacco addiction and prevent death and disease. The proposal was announced at the State Capitol by Representative Dario Anselmo (R-Edina). Bill coauthors include Representatives Keith Franke (R-St. Paul Park), Sandy Layman (R-Cohasset), Dave Baker (R-Willmar), Mark Uglem (R-Champlin), Mary Kunesh- Podein (DFL-New Brighton), Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan), Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul), and Mike Freiberg (DFLGolden Valley). The legislators were joined by youth, medical professionals and supporters from the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation coalition.
“As a parent and as a legislator, I want to do everything in my power to ensure young people are free from addiction,” said lead author Rep. Anselmo. “The harms of tobacco use reach all of our families and communities – whether we are Republicans, Democrats, rural or urban. Minnesotans are leaders, and I want us to be at the forefront of this issue. I hope we can all come together and support this commonsense public policy change that makes the health of young Minnesotans a top priority.”
Raising the tobacco sale age to 21 is an effective way to keep commercial tobacco products away from young people. Nearly all addicted smokers – 95 percent – start before age 21. In Minnesota, raising the tobacco age to 21 would prevent an estimated 30,000 kids from becoming smokers over the next 15 years. Last year, a Tobacco 21 bill was introduced in the Minnesota Senate.
Several Minnesota communities have taken the lead on Tobacco 21, passing local policies to protect youth. Since 2017, five Minnesota cities have passed Tobacco 21 policies, including Plymouth, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park and North Mankato. Several other Minnesota localities are actively considering Tobacco 21 policies. To date, five states (Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon) and more than 290 localities have raised the tobacco sale age to 21.