The Minnesota House voted Saturday to advance bipartisan legislation raising the purchase age for tobacco products from 18 to 21.
The proposal, which would bring the state in line with recently enacted federal law, cleared the House along with two other measures, both DFL priorities: a one-time supplemental payment for families in the state’s welfare system and a new requirement on pharmaceutical companies to explain large prescription drug price hikes.
The tobacco measure, known as Tobacco 21, was approved by a vote of 89-41. It now awaits action in the Senate. The new age limit also would apply to e-cigarettes and vaping products as well as chewing tobacco.
Congress raised the minimum age to 21 last year, but backers of a state restriction say it is needed for enforcement purposes by state and local police and regulatory agencies.
Minnesota also is one of several states suing e-cigarette makers, alleging that their marketing practices are unlawfully aimed at teens.
Supporters argue that raising the purchase age to 21 would make it harder for teens to obtain cigarettes, directly or from older friends.
Molly Moilanen, vice president at ClearWay Minnesota and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, welcomed the House vote.
“Today we took an important step toward achieving our goal of building a smoke-free generation in Minnesota,” she said.
Passage of the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act in the DFL-led House represents the state’s latest effort to control rising prescription drug costs by subjecting pharmaceutical companies to more stringent pricing disclosures.
The bill requires price transparency for three categories: existing drugs, new drugs and newly acquired drugs.
Drug manufacturers would be required to report to the health commissioner drug pricing information for drugs that exceed certain thresholds or increase by a certain percentage over a 12- or 24-month period. The state Department of Health would post this information on a public website.
The House bill passed 99-33. The GOP-led Minnesota Senate cleared its own drug price transparency legislation last month.
“The cost of many drugs has skyrocketed to the point that they are becoming inaccessible to the people that need them to survive and thrive,” said Rep. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven, a physician and chief author of the House bill. “Pharmaceutical companies create life-changing and life-sustaining medications, but they are useless if people can’t afford them.”
The House also approved a plan to boost payments for low-income residents in the Minnesota Family Investment Program and Diversionary Work Program. The bill appropriates nearly $14 million in federal welfare dollars to provide one-time payments of up to $500 per household during the pandemic. The extra payment passed 73-59. Its prospects remain uncertain in the Senate.