Shoreview and Falcon Heights councils up the age to buy tobacco products

The Shoreview and Falcon Heights city councils both voted to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. 

The aim of the age change is to make it harder for teens to have access to tobacco products.

The Shoreview City Council came to the decision unanimously at its May 7 meeting. The ordinance is scheduled to be implemented in July. 

The Falcon Heights vote fell 3-2 in favor at its meeting May 9, with the policy change set to take place in 60 days. The Falcon Heights council also restricted the sale of menthol, fruit and candy-flavored tobacco products to tobacco stores. Falcon Heights council members Randy Gustafson and Joe Brown Thunder voted against the measure.

Brown Thunder said he understands the health risks of young people being exposed to smoking, but that, “from the get-go,” he didn’t believe the city should be making a decision like this. 

Gustafson said he believes the issue of establishing age limits on the activities of individuals or sale of legal products is the responsibility of the state or federal government and not a municipal issue.

Council member Melanie Leehy said she’d rather doctors lose business because people no longer have mouth or lung cancer. 

On the Shoreview side, said Mayor Sandy Martin, “Shoreview has had a 30-year history of doing the best we can to create a healthy community.”

At both the Shoreview and Falcon Heights meetings, anti-tobacco advocates, including parents and students, spoke in favor of raising the purchasing age. 

Katie Engman, program director of the Ramsey Tobacco Coalition, part of The Association of Nonsmokers-Minnesota, has been on a tour of sorts speaking about youth tobacco use.

She made a stop to give a presentation at the March 12 Shoreview City Council workshop and the May 9 Falcon Heights council meeting. 

Youth tobacco use is up for the first time in 17 years, Engman said during her Shoreview presentation — that rise was fueled by teens using e-cigarettes. She said 6,000 Minnesotans die each year from tobacco-related illnesses at a cost of over $3 billion to the state.

Martin, at the March 12 Shoreview work session, said if the state doesn’t pass a 21-plus policy, she would like to see Shoreview be a leader in increasing the purchasing age to 21 and enlisting surrounding communities to participate. 

The two cities join a handful of other Minnesota cities that have upped the age for buying tobacco: Bloomington, Edina, North Mankato, Plymouth and St. Louis Park have also done so. Roseville is holding a public hearing on raising the age June 18. Minnepolis is also looking into raising the tobacco-buying age. Nationwide, nearly 300 cities have increased the age, as have five states.

Shoreview is no stranger to being on the forefront of preventive tobacco policy. The city council was part of a push by some Minnesota cities to approve ordinances limiting flavored tobacco sales in 2016. 

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at 651-748-7815 or sgustavo@lillienews.com

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