Minnesota May Become 3rd State with 21+ Tobacco Purchasing Age

The state would join California and Hawaii as the only states with statewide rule of 21 or over.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Just days after Edina became the first city in Minnesota to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21, a bill was introduced at the state legislature to do the same statewide.

Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) introduced SF 2370 Thursday along with co-authors Sens. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis), Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina), and Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth).

In addition to raising the tobacco purchasing age, the bill also increases fines for illegal sales, and would change using false identification to purchase tobacco products from a misdemeanor to a petty misdemeanor. Fines for the first offensive would be increased from $75 to $200. A second violation within 24 months would increase from $200 to $500, and any subsequent violation would incur a fine of $1,000, rather than the current $250. Currently a third violation must result in the violating establishment’s tobacco license being suspended for at least seven days. Under SF 2370, the establishment could have its license revoked entirely after a third violation.

“Raising the tobacco age will prevent young people from smoking and save money, as those young people grow up to live healthier lives,” Nelson said in a press release. “Smoking costs Minnesota about $7 billion annually in excess health care costs and lost productivity from smoking. Tobacco 21 will address this problem where it starts.”

Edina became the first city in Minnesota to pass a 21-plus tobacco purchasing age Monday evening. The 5-0 city council vote will take effect on July 1.

California and Hawaii are currently the only states in the country with a statewide purchasing age of 21. Oregon’s Senate passed a bill similar to Nelson’s in March, reports the Associated Press.

SF 2370 bill will not see action this session, as the deadline for committees to act on a bill was March 31. It was referred to the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

Nelson’s bill has garnered the support of Minnesotans for a Smoke Free Generation. This is a coalition of more than 50 health organizations with a goal of preventing young people from becoming addicted to tobacco.

“Almost 95 percent of adult smokers started by 21,” Minnesotans for a Smoke Free Generation Co-Chair Molly Moilanen said in a press release. “That means to prevent addiction, we must keep people from starting before then. Raising the tobacco age will help do that.”

Anders Koskinen