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The tobacco industry heavily targets young adults ages 18-21 in order to recruit new tobacco users and guarantee profits. Approximately 95 percent of current adult smokers started before they were 18.[i]

A 2015 report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that increasing the legal age to buy tobacco to 21 would decrease smoking initiation among 15-17 year olds by 25 percent.[ii]  A Minnesota-specific study looked at the impact of raising the tobacco age and found that 25 percent fewer 15-year-olds would start smoking by the time they turn 18. This translates into 30,000 young people not becoming smokers over the next 15 years.[iii] If youth don’t smoke by the time they are 21, they likely never will.

Nicotine is addictive and particularly harmful to the developing adolescent brain. Evidence suggests that nicotine interferes with brain maturation and can have a long term effect on cognitive development and mental health.[iv] The long-term effects of nicotine on the adolescent brain is a significant public health concern.[v],[vi]

 The City of Needham, Mass., raised the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 in 2005. Within five years, tobacco use among high school students decreased by nearly half.[vii]

A national consensus is growing to protect young people from a lifetime of addiction and health problems caused by tobacco. A 2014 national survey shows that 75 percent of adults favor increasing the minimum purchase age for tobacco to 21.

A growing list of more than 260 cities in the United States along with the states of Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon have raised the age to purchase tobacco to 21. In Minnesota, Edina and St. Louis Park have both passed Tobacco 21 ordinances.

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T21 Fact Sheet

ANSR has created a half-page fact sheet on Tobacco 21. Check it out below.

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The Edina City Council showed strong leadership in protecting the health and well-being of its youth on May 2. The City Council voted unanimously to raise the sale age for all tobacco products to 21.

“For me, it’s a fairly straightforward situation,” Mayor James Hovland said. “The long-term benefits to public health far outweigh the commercial aspects of this. This fits in the realm of what we can do and where we can make a difference. Hopefully, it will percolate up to the state.”

Edina is the first city in Minnesota to raise the age to 21. It joins two states – Hawaii and California – and more than 220 municipalities in protecting youth by raising the sale age for tobacco to 21.

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. Ages 18-21 are a critical time when young people move from intermittent smoking to daily use. Four out of five experimental smokers become daily smokers by age 21.

Needham, Mass., raised the tobacco age to 21 in 2005 and within five years, tobacco use among high school students decreased by nearly half. Edina first considered raising the age to 21 after a presentation last fall from Community Health Commissioner, Dr. Caleb Schultz. Councilmembers heard from many members of the community during the public hearing, including Dr. Schultz, who has spearheaded the policy effort.

“(Tonight) Edina demonstrated how much we value our children’s health by being the first city in Minnesota to enact a Tobacco 21 ordinance,” Schultz said.  “I’m proud of Edina for taking this major step in creating the first truly tobacco-free generation.”

A national consensus is growing to prevent addictions and future health problems by raising the sale age of tobacco products to 21.

  • Research shows that increasing the tobacco age in Minnesota would prevent 30,000 kids from becoming smokers over the next 15 years.
  • The tobacco industry heavily targets 18-to-21-year olds with candy flavoring, magazine advertisements and event sponsorships.
  • 75 percent of adult Americans favor increasing the minimum purchase age for tobacco to 21.

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The Saint Louis Park City Council voted 5-0 on the consent agenda to raise the sale age for all tobacco products to 21.

“It’s well-documented that people are more likely to develop a smoking habit if they start as teenagers,” Councilmember Sue Sanger said. “Raising the minimum age to 21 appears to be a very sensible and easy-to-enforce means to accomplish this.”

Saint Louis Park is the second city in Minnesota to raise the age to 21. It joins three  states – Hawaii, California and Oregon – and more than 230 municipalities in protecting youth by raising the sale age for tobacco to 21. In May, Edina became the first city in Minnesota to raise the age to 21.

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.  Needham, Mass., raised the tobacco age to 21 in 2005 and within five years, tobacco use among high school students decreased by nearly half.

“Sometimes cities need to lead, and I am proud my city was willing to take this important step,” said Matt Flory, resident and president-elect for the Minnesota Public Health Association. “This will prevent a new generation of kids from taking up a dangerous habit. I hope other communities will join us as we work toward a state law.”

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One of the fastest growing trends in reducing the youth tobacco usage rates is centered around lifting the sales age for tobacco to 21.

While Minnesota as a state has not taken a full look at this, local municipalities are taking it on themselves to protect youth.

The Bloomington City Council did its part with a unanimous vote on Nov. 6 to raise the sale age for all tobacco products to 21.

“Adopting this now, instead of three months or six months from now, we probably will save somebody’s life,” said Bloomington Council Member Eldon Spencer. “We might save five or 10 lives and that’s probably more than we do at the average Council meeting. So, I think it is a very good step and I want to be part of it.”

Bloomington became the third city in Minnesota to raise the age to 21. In May, Edina became the first city in Minnesota to raise the age to 21. Saint Louis Park followed in June.

“I am proud to be a part of a community that is willing to take the extra step to protect our young people from the harms of tobacco,” said Jenna Carter, a mother and Bloomington resident who works for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Center for Prevention.

“I have seen first-hand what addiction to tobacco can do, and I am happy that the Bloomington City Council unanimously voted for this ordinance.”

Bloomington’s Council had previously taken steps to protect its youth by establishing a minimum price for cheap, flavored cigars. Before that, cigars were as cheap as three for $.99.

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The Plymouth City Council took steps to protect its youth by voting 4-3 to raise the sale age for all tobacco products to 21 on Nov. 28.

Council members Jim Davis and Ned Carroll urged fellow members to support the ordinance, making Plymouth a leader in the state. Council member Jim Willis was also vocal in his support, while Judy Johnson also voted in favor.
“We need to take the lead on this,” Carroll said.

Added Davis, “Health issues associated with smoking are well-documented. I’d rather be a leader than a follower on this.”

Plymouth became the fourth city in Minnesota to raise the age to 21. The city joins five states – Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon – and more than 275 municipalities in protecting youth by raising the sales age for tobacco to 21. Edina, St. Louis Park, and Bloomington also raised the tobacco sales age this year. 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. Needham, Mass., raised the tobacco age to 21 in 2005 and within five years, tobacco use among high school students decreased by nearly half.

“It’s inspiring to see local advocacy in action and to see our city council choose protecting kids over Big Tobacco profits,” said advocate Caitlin DeVos, who volunteers with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “I’m grateful to the community members who showed support and to see that the council wants to advocate with us at the state level.”

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