Mankato and North Mankato could become the first outstate cities in Minnesota to raise the tobacco sales age to 21, with city leaders planning to present and discuss concurrent ordinances on the issue later this month.
North Mankato Mayor Mark Dehen said he proposed the idea to Mankato Mayor Eric Anderson and two Mankato city administrators in mid-June after reading about a similar measure approved in Edina.
The Edina City Council voted unanimously in May to raise the tobacco sales age to 21, becoming the first city in the state to enact such a measure, which went into effect Saturday. St. Louis Park, its suburban neighbor, is set to follow: Council members last week passed the first reading of a similar ordinance, which would take effect Oct. 1 if it wins final approval later this month.
City leaders in Mankato and North Mankato plan to introduce their ordinances at council meetings on July 10. Both councils will set community hearing dates for later in July.
Dehen said he hadn’t thought about proposing the measure until he read about Edina’s action. But, he said, Mankato and North Mankato have been at the forefront of enacting smoking restrictions in the past. Mankato was one of the first cities in the state to pass an indoor smoking ban, which more recently was extended to electronic cigarettes.
“There’s a lot of research and information out there that should dissuade the average person from [taking up smoking] … vs. someone that started 30 years ago,” Dehen said. “To have a young person take it on now is disheartening.”
Mankato and North Mankato are tightly intertwined, with residents often traveling back and forth across the Minnesota River that divides the cities. Because they are so closely connected, it would be difficult for one city to raise the tobacco sales age if the other does not, Dehen said.
He’s confident, however, that the ordinance will pass. “I believe there are enough votes on both councils that it will go forward,” he said.
Pat Hentges, Mankato’s city manager, said he can’t predict the outcome, but he anticipates the public hearing will generate “some lively discussions.”
Mankato and North Mankato have always been out front on social and health issues, he said.
“Our council doesn’t look at it as just cats, dogs, snowplowing and police,” Hentges said. “We look at a variety of issues.”