St. Paul is poised to become the next Minnesota city to raise its tobacco-purchasing age from 18 to 21.

Following the lead of more than two dozen cities and counties across the state, the St. Paul City Council is considering an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, to people under 21.

Penalties for retailers who violate the ordinance would range from a $200 fine for the first offense to a license revocation on the fourth offense. The ordinance would also require that tobacco vending machines display signs that say the sale of tobacco products to people under 21 is prohibited.

The proposed ordinance has garnered support from organizations including the Minnesota Department of Health, the American Heart Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

In a letter to council members, Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm cited the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that tobacco use among high school students had risen to 26% — the first increase since 2000.

"Teens are especially susceptible to nicotine addiction and the harmful effects it has on the brain as they grow," Malcolm wrote. "Raising the minimum tobacco sales age to 21 would limit youth access to tobacco until the portion of the brain responsible for rational decisionmaking is more fully developed."

St. Paul leaders have already limited access to tobacco products in the city, including restricting sales of flavored tobacco and menthol cigarettes.

Council members will likely vote on the proposed ordinance in mid-September.

Emma Nelson