Eden Prairie has become the latest jurisdiction in Minnesota to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The measure, adopted Tuesday by the City Council, will go into effect Feb. 1.
Eden Prairie City Council Member Ron Case, who voted for the measure, said he cares about 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, even though by state law they are allowed to smoke.
“Sometimes it’s not a case about freedom,” he said at the meeting. “There are all kinds of laws out there that we look at to help people to make healthier decisions. That’s not a bad thing for government to be getting into.”
Council Member Brad Aho, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he was concerned about the effect the measure would have on the city’s 23 tobacco retailers. He also said he favored a state law rather than a patchwork of municipal ordinances.
The southwest metro city joins the Minnesota cities of Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Falcon Heights, Shoreview, Minneapolis, St. Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale, Hermantown, Brooklyn Center and Mendota Heights in raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21. Otter Tail County also has taken that step.
The Eden Prairie vote came just weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a plan to restrict sales of flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes to combat the rising underage use of tobacco products.
The Association for Nonsmokers Minnesota is working with mostly metro-area municipalities to encourage raising the legal tobacco sales age, an effort called T21, said Bethlehem Yewhalawork, community outreach coordinator.
By the end of the year, the organization expects 21 Minnesota communities to have passed similar measures, including Waseca and Pope County in outstate Minnesota.
A recent survey from the Minnesota Department of Health found that 26 percent of high school students were using some form of tobacco or nicotine. That was up 2 percentage points from 2014 and marked the first time youth tobacco use had risen in 17 years. The increase has been attributed to the popularity of flavored tobacco products, Yewhalawork said.