The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on May 25 to raise the tobacco sales age to 21,
drawing a standing ovation from the large crowd of green-shirted Tobacco 21 advocates in the chambers. The council
members also stood and clapped after the passage of the ordinance.
Council Members Andrew Johnson and Jeremiah Ellison co-authored the ordinance, which will reduce youth smoking
and combat tobacco industry targeting. Immediately after the conclusion of the council meeting, Mayor Jacob Frey held
a press conference in support of the ordinance and signed it into law.
“… Our youth and our students are the ones changing hearts and minds on many things,” Frey said. “Today, the
unanimous vote is a result of your hard work and persistence.”
Minneapolis is the eighth city in Minnesota to raise the tobacco sales age to 21. Edina, Saint Louis Park, Bloomington,
Plymouth, North Mankato, Falcon Heights and Shoreview have also raised the tobacco sales age to 21. Frey named all
these cities and said, “Now, Minneapolis has joined them too!”
“Let’s go save some lives,” Frey said as he signed the ordinance.
Frey and Johnson also encouraged state lawmakers to turn this into state law and protect all youth in Minnesota.
Studies project 30,000 youth would not start smoking during the next 15 years if enacted across the state. More than 95
percent of current smokers started smoking before they turned 21. If youth don’t start smoking before the age of 21,
they likely never will. More than 300 cities and five states nationally have raised the age to 21.
“Cigarettes are easy to get your hands on because seniors can go down the street to the local store and get them,”
Johnson said. “The best way to address this is by making sure youth never start. We won’t prevent every youth from
getting cigarettes, but it’s not intended to. It will make it harder. It will save lives. Let’s get this thing done across the
state of Minnesota.”
Added Ellison, “We know we want to support our businesses, but nothing can come at the expense of our youth and our
community at large.”
Derall Pratt, a youth working with Breathe Free North out of NorthPoint Health & Wellness, said during the mayor’s
press conference he has seen the rise of e-cigarette usage among his peers during the past few years.
“Hopefully, this is the first step toward a tobacco-free generation,” Pratt said.
Minneapolis Parks Board Commissioner LaTrisha Vetaw, who works at NorthPoint Health & Wellness, commended the
city council for the unanimous vote, saying, “Today, our city took another step toward a tobacco-free future. The
adoption of this ordinance shows our young people their voices matter. Thanks for having the courage to protect
Sylvia Amos, of the StairStep Foundation, emotionally spoke about how tobacco-related illnesses claimed the lives of
many important people in her family, including her mother and husband. She talked about how the tobacco industry
particularly targets the African American community.
“We are taking the health of our community back and protecting the next generation from tobacco addiction,” Amos
said. We cannot afford to have another generation sentenced to death because tobacco companies need to replace
those who have died with new, young smokers.”
The ordinance will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2018.