One of the Twin Cities’ largest suburbs has joined the growing list of communities banning the selling of tobacco to anyone under 21 years old.
Plymouth’s City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21, following in the footsteps of Edina, St. Louis Park and Bloomington.
The new rule takes effect July 1. City Manager Dave Callister said the date was pushed back from Jan. 1 to give the Legislature time to possibly impose the older minimum age across Minnesota, as has been done in California and Hawaii. A bill to that effect was introduced in the state Senate in May and has yet to receive a hearing.
A leading advocacy group against tobacco use praised Plymouth’s move, which includes not only cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, but also e-cigarettes.
Dr. Lisa Mattson, who lives in the community and is a parent, told the council that “high schoolers are now vaping at a rate more than double that of conventional cigarettes. ... I applaud the council’s decision to include e-cigarettes in this ordinance.”
Molly Moilanen, a spokeswoman for ClearWay Minnesota and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, said in a statement released soon after the vote, “Plymouth city leaders took bold action to prevent young people from ever getting hooked on tobacco products. Raising the tobacco age to 21 is a lifesaving policy.”
Some cities, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco targeted to young smokers. Others have regulated the price for cigar packs.
The recent changes in the age for purchase of tobacco or e-cigarettes has not included raising the age for tobacco use in Minnesota, which is 18.
Industry lobbyists insist that changes in law should be handled federally rather than at the local level. Also, many cities worry that tightening tobacco access would hurt retailers operating on slender margins and send business to nearby locales.
“The personal rights of 18-, 19- and 20-year-old adults to decide for themselves whether to purchase tobacco products will be curtailed even though these same young adults can vote, serve in the military, get married, take out loans for college, and make their own health care decisions,” a group of retail lobbyists argued in the run-up to Plymouth’s deciding vote.
“We ask that you weigh the rights of all adults before considering whether to restrict the freedom of 18-, 19-and 20-year-olds to decide what legal products they are allowed to purchase.”
Voting yes were Judy Johnson, Jim Willis, Jim Davis and Ned Carroll. No votes came from Jim Prom, Jeff Wosje and Mayor Kelli Slavik.
The issue has been tackled in outstate cities with sizable college populations. The St. Cloud City Council voted recently to raise the sales age to 21, but Mayor Dave Kleis vetoed the measure. Mankato and North Mankato plan votes in early 2018.
The Detroit Lakes City Council voted earlier this month against bumping up the age to 21. Hutchinson to the west of the Twin Cities has declined as well.