Arden Hills took aim at the tobacco industry when the City Council voted unanimously to raise the tobacco sales age to 21 and ban the sale of flavored tobacco on March 25.

Caitlin Young, a nursing student at Bethel University said, “I have directly seen the impacts of smoking in ways that many young people have not. I want to stand up for both my peers and future generations to help end tobacco use and advocate for healthier communities.”

In addition to joining the Tobacco 21 movement, Arden Hills voted to ban all flavored tobacco products from the city. Menthol-, candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products are attractive to youth, and the tobacco industry uses these flavors to hook a new generation of users, resulting in addiction, disease and death. Eighty percent of youth tobacco users use flavored tobacco.

Arden Hills is the 29th community in Minnesota to raise the tobacco sales age to 21, with the vote coming just hours behind Albert Lea, which became the 28th city earlier in the evening. Edina, Saint Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Falcon Heights, Shoreview, Minneapolis, Saint Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale, Hermantown, Brooklyn Center, Mendota Heights, Otter Tail, Pope, Beltrami and Isanti Counties, Eden Prairie, Waseca, Duluth, North Oaks, Bemidji, Robbinsdale and Albert Lea have taken this step.

“Maybe in passing this, we’ll send a message to our legislators to get on board,” Arden Hills Mayor David Grant said.

Youth e-cigarette use has increased nearly 50 percent in the past three years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Nearly one in five Minnesota High School students currently uses e-cigarettes, according to the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey.

“Arden Hills should be commended for taking these life-saving measures,” Kristen Ackert, Policy and Research Manager at the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, said. “The city has shown its commitment to the health of its residents by taking on bold public health policy initiatives aimed at helping young people never to start the deadly habit of tobacco use in the first place.”

Approximately 95 percent of current adult smokers started before they turned 21. If youth don’t start smoking before the age of 21, they likely never will.

Council member Steve Scott thanked the youth who attended the hearing and other meetings.

“I appreciate you for taking an issue and standing up for it,” he said. “You’re seeing your friends being afflicted by this chemical addiction.”

Arden Hills is the 10th Minnesota City to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco and the seventh to restrict the sale of menthol. Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Saint Louis Park, Shoreview, Lauderdale, Duluth, Mendota Heights, Robbinsdale and Falcon Heights have also restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products. Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, Mendota Heights, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights also restrict the sale of menthol tobacco products.