In a first for Minnesota, Edina on Tuesday approved raising the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
The Edina City Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s tobacco sales ordinance at its meeting Tuesday. The result drew cheers from a crowd, including many young people, in the council chambers.
“We’ve been comfortable leading the way,” Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said after the vote. “We have an ardent belief that we can have an effect on public health.”
The law will go into effect July 1, giving time for the 18 licensed tobacco vendors in the city to adjust their practices.
Supporters of raising the minimum age, most of them wearing green T-shirts, gave the council a standing ovation following the vote.
“We’re hopeful that this will spur other communities to take notice and take action,” said Molly Moilanen, co-chair of Minnesotans For a Smoke-Free Generation.
The new ordinance would raise the purchasing age for all tobacco-related products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes. Vendors will be required to update their signage informing customers of the age requirement.
People under 21 who use false identification to buy tobacco would be guilty of a misdemeanor and may have to attend educational or other court-ordered programs.
Most tobacco vendors in Edina are convenience stores and gas stations, along with three municipal liquor stores. Hovland even hinted that the City Council would discuss whether the municipal stores would carry tobacco products at all.
Mark Olson, who owns the Vernon BP gas station in Edina, said he felt the city rushed to pass the law and worries it will lead customers to move their business to neighboring suburbs.
“When you do this, you’re going to be like a little island in the Twin Cities all by yourself,” Olson said before the meeting. “You’re pushing customers away from my store that ... are also buying gas, they’re buying pop, they’re buying car washes.”
But council members and supporters said they hope the law causes a wave of other cities, and possibly even the Legislature, to consider similar provisions.
“The more communities can take this important step ... the better,” said Dr. Caleb Schultz, who presented the topic to the council in March. “Certainly a bordering community [doing it] will only broaden and deepen the impact here.”
A Bloomington health board is expected to recommend the city raise its tobacco sales age, city manager Jamie Verbrugge said Tuesday.
Officials for two adjacent suburbs, Hopkins and Richfield, said they have not considered similar provisions for their cities.
Edina’s law is modeled on the work of Tobacco 21, a national campaign to raise the minimum age to buy tobacco, and was supported by Minnesotans For a Smoke-Free Generation.
Children under 18 who smoke usually get access to tobacco from adults under 21, according to an article in Minnesota Medicine earlier this year.
The law would help close access to those sources for tobacco.
Raising the minimum age to buy tobacco is broadly supported by adults, according to studies in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
More than 210 cities have passed similar laws, including New York City and Chicago, according to Tobacco 21. California and Hawaii have statewide bans on sales to those under 21.
Dr. Rob Crane, president of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation, which runs Tobacco 21, applauded Edina’s action and hopes other cities will follow.
“It’s infectious,” Crane said. “It almost always starts locally.”
Crane said that opposition by tobacco company lobbyists makes passage of statewide age restrictions tougher politically.
For “a City Council or council commission, those lobbyists don’t hold much sway,” he said.
Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, who spoke during the first reading of the ordinance in April, said tobacco retailers were not “afforded the time” to present their reservations.
He said 21-year-olds could still purchase tobacco for underage teens.
California adopted a statewide policy after several cities passed individual Tobacco 21 provisions.
Supporters of Edina’s new law said they are hopeful the same thing can happen in Minnesota.
First, Crane would like to see Minneapolis or St. Paul consider an ordinance similar to Edina’s, he said.
“Anyone out there ... that wants to see our ordinance, which we think is a solid ordinance, you’re welcome to it,” Hovland said.