St. Paul on Wednesday night became the latest in a string of Minnesota cities to raise its tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21.
The City Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance change, which will take effect in roughly one month. It comes three years after the city banned the sale of flavored tobacco products at most stores.
Fifty-three communities in Minnesota have now raised the buying age for tobacco products to 21, according to the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota. Ten of them have both raised the buying age and restricted flavored tobacco products, the group said.
An earlier version of the St. Paul ordinance would have penalized both buyers and sellers for underage purchases. It was amended to target only retailers, however.
The change applies to vaping products as well as traditional tobacco sales. Bilese Dinsa, a junior at Central High School, testified Wednesday that a friend of a friend had been hospitalized for vaping.
"We imagine vaping as something that won't affect us, but this is impacting our brothers and sisters," Dinsa said. "We need to take action by raising the age. We are the generation of the future. And by raising the age we can reduce our chances of having more youth smokers."
Ellie Beaver testified that the ordinance will help prevent young people from trying tobacco products.
"I see how the tobacco industry targets St. Paul kids with flavored products and candy-like packaging," Beaver said.
No opponents testified Wednesday night, but tobacco retailer employee Adam McColley was among those who submitted letters to the council.
"In this city, state and nation, we recognize 18 as the legal age of adulthood," McColley wrote. "An 18-year-old can join the military and risk life and limb fighting enemies abroad to protect citizens at home, but the St. Paul City Council wishes to prohibit that person from buying a pack of smokes at home."
Minneapolis raised its legal tobacco-buying age to 21 last year.