Mounds View poised to join neighbors, increase tobacco sale age

Every resident who spoke at the Aug. 26 Mounds View City Council meeting did so in favor of raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 within city limits. 

The council then unanimously approved a first reading of an ordinance that would do so, also covering electronic cigarettes and related nicotine products. 

In passing a Tobacco 21 ordinance, Mounds View would become the last city within the Mounds View Public School District to do so, joining neighbors Arden Hills, New Brighton, North Oaks and Shoreview. 

The Mounds View City Council first discussed the issue in August of last year, before bringing it up again at a June 3 work session. 

“I actually would like to recognize city council member Bill Bergeron for bringing this back before us,” Mayor Carol Mueller said at the session, which took place a week before the New Brighton City Council voted to increase its city’s sale age. 

“Now it looks like almost all of the cities in our school district are on board, so it was important that this discussion came back,” she said. 

A statewide push for Tobacco 21 laws grew in part from the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that tobacco use — including the use of e-cigarettes — increased among middle and high school students for the first time in nearly two decades. 

While traditional cigarette use has continued to decline, e-cigarette use — also known as “vaping” — has risen by 49% statewide since 2014 amongst teens.

“I know that a lot of high school students have friends that are 18, which gives them easy access to tobacco products,” said district student Grace Plowman at the Mounds View hearing. 

In its draft ordinance, Mounds View also cited the fact that nearly 90% of people who use tobacco start before they turn 18 years old, a statistic confirmed by a 2015 Institute of Medicine report. 

The ordinance will be read a second time at the council’s Sept. 9 meeting. If the second reading is approved, it will then take effect 30 days after publication in the New Brighton-Mounds View Bulletin.  

 

Three different options

At its June work session, the council considered three options when looking into a new tobacco ordinance: solely increasing the purchasing age; increasing the age and restricting flavored products, excluding menthol; and increasing the age and restricting flavored products, including menthol. 

City officials expressed a number of differing viewpoints during the discussion. Bergeron advocated for a ban on flavored products, excepting menthol, outside of adult-only tobacco stores, along with the increase of the purchasing age. 

Council member Al Hull proposed solely increasing the purchasing age for e-cigarettes, which are almost always flavored and are the most commonly used products by teenagers. 

Mueller, as well as council members Sherry Gunn and Gary Meehlhause, expressed the desire to increase the purchasing age for all tobacco and nicotine products, but enact no flavor restrictions.

“It’s something that we can change ... we can add, we can make it more severe. Let’s start out here,” said Gunn. 

Both she and Mueller said that they would like more time to consult with local businesses before bringing any kind of flavor restriction up for a vote.

While New Brighton also chose solely to increase the purchasing age, Arden Hills and Shoreview enacted additional flavor restrictions. With Bergeron and Hull in the minority, the consensus was to have city staff prepare an ordinance that dealt solely with increasing the purchasing age for tobacco, electronic delivery devices and related nicotine products.

 

Public hearing 

and first reading

In approving the first reading, the council voted unanimously to move the draft forward for a final reading and likely passage. 

No representatives from affected businesses — which would include local gas stations, liquor and tobacco stores — were present at the public hearing. 

According to a city report, it sent notices to all licensed tobacco retailers the week of July 15. Mueller reported hearing from both the Mounds View Merwin Liquors and the Speedway station, which she said were in support of the measure. Otherwise, there were no responses.

“We know that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is very addictive,” said Dr. Steven Greer, a team physician with the school district, at the hearing. “Because their brains are still developing, adolescents are uniquely vulnerable to nicotine addiction.”

Greer noted that recently the Centers for Disease Control began investigating more than 90 cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping, at least four of which happened in Minnesota. The CDC says in addition to nicotine, many e-cigarettes include other chemicals that have been linked to lung disease and cancer.

Greer also noted that tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in Minnesota. According to the CDC, nearly 6,000 people statewide die of tobacco-related illnesses every year. 

 

Enforcement 

According to the draft ordinance, the new measure only addresses the sale of tobacco and nicotine products and not possession. Statewide the legal age to possess them is still 18.

If a licensed retailer sells to a person under the age of 21, that business will face an escalating series of fines, as well as a potential license suspension. Individuals found to have sold tobacco-related products, electronic delivery devices or related nicotine products to anyone under 21 could also face varying fines.

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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