St. Anthony on its way to Tobacco 21

City council approves first reading of new ordinance, still has two to go

One day after Mounds View approved an ordinance raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21, the St. Anthony City Council approved the first reading of its own Tobacco 21 ordinance, which would also raise the sales age for tobacco and nicotine products within the city.

St. Anthony council members had little discussion at the Sept. 10 meeting, and approval of the first reading passed 4-0, as council member Jan Jenson was absent from the meeting. The council will now hear two more readings of the ordinance, planned for its Sept. 24 and Oct. 8 meetings.

St. Anthony’s new ordinance seeks only to raise the purchasing age to 21, and not to restrict the sale of flavored products within the city as some neighboring municipalities have done.

The wave of Tobacco 21 — the name of the campaign behind raising the age — ordinances sweeping the north metro has been inspired in part by data from the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. This report found that use of electronic cigarettes — commonly known as “vapes” or “e-cigarettes” — grew among teenagers for the first time in decades.

While traditional cigarette use continues to decline among middle and high schoolers, use of e-cigarettes has risen sharply. Advocates for reform have pointed to the flavored nature and colorful advertising of these products as making them especially appealing to youth.

One of two residents who spoke on the issue at the St. Anthony meeting expressed this opinion, and asked the council to consider looking into further restrictions on flavored products.

In response, Mayor Jerry Faust said he felt raising the purchasing age would be enough to help keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of high school students. He also lamented the lack of statewide action on the issue. He said he hoped adding St. Anthony’s ordinance to the growing number of city and county-level actions would help prompt the Legislature to move on Tobacco 21.

“The unfortunate thing is the state hasn’t done it. So, if they go someplace else they may be able to purchase it in a different city,” said Faust.

A second resident, Gene Bird, agreed with Faust on the idea that increasing the age would help limit vaping in schools. “Many younger kids get tobacco products from older friends. There are a lot of 18-year-olds in high school, and raising the age to 21 helps stop that pipeline down to younger students.”

“I urge you to consider this just as a first step in protecting our youth,” he continued. “Other nearby cities have gone further and have done things such as restricting the sale of flavored tobacco, which is another great policy that combines with Tobacco 21 to protect our youth.”

Bird also brought up newly-discovered cases of possibly vaping-related lung disease that have made national headlines over the last month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 400 cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette use have been reported throughout the U.S. There have been six confirmed deaths, including one in Minnesota. 

“The investigation has not identified any specific substance or e-cigarette product that is linked to all cases,” the CDC says on its website, saying that the common thread was that all patients reported using e-cigarettes. It added that a number of these patients had used vaping devices to inhale liquid containing marijuana.

At the meeting, no residents addressed the council in opposition to the measure. Charlie Yunker, assistant to the city manager, said that the city had sent out a letter to all licensed tobacco retailers on Aug. 9 informing them of the potential change.

“In that letter, they were invited to a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 4, to answer any questions and hear about any changes,” he said. “We’ve had no comments from the retailers up until this point.”

The ordinance will be up for a vote at the Oct. 8 council meeting, after its third reading.

– Bridget Kranz can be reached at or 651-748-7825

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