Governor Walz Signs Tobacco 21 into Law

May 22nd, 2020
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What does that mean for our community?

May 16th, 2020- Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed Tobacco 21 into state law. This makes Minnesota the 25th state to adopt such a law. Didn’t this same law get passed nationwide back in December? The answer is yes. Then why would the state have to pass an ordinance, you ask?

 

First, let’s bring it back to what led up to this point. In May of 2017, Edina was the first Minnesota city to pass Tobacco 21 due to the increased concern from residents and physicians. Fast forward to today and Minnesota has 75 local communities that have passed T21. Without local community support, the state would not have moved forward with this bill.

 

Tobacco 21, meaning the legal sales age for a person to buy tobacco products is set at 21 years, isn’t a totally new concept. It’s recently gained some ground with new findings and the increased youth epidemic centered on electronic cigarettes. With so many other communities going T21 across the nation, local communities could keep an eye on them to see if this was an effective approach to minimize youth use. In some communities; like Needham, Massachusetts, they were finding that tobacco usage among 15-17 year olds was decreased by 50% because of the law. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that Tobacco 21 would lead to youth reduction, including a 25 percent reduction in smoking initiation among 15-to-17-year-olds. T21 essentially removes the social source in High School, where 18 year olds are attending, thus removing the direct avenue for underage tobacco usage.

 

With the teen vaping rates sky rocketing, it pushed policymakers to take action. This past December, President Donald Trump signed a bill that included Tobacco 21. Since it’s a nationwide bill, it’s the law all over the country, right? Well not so fast. The bill just prohibits tobacco sales to minors (20 and under) but what is the penalty for selling or purchasing? That’s where it’s a little tricky. If a tobacco retailer were to be caught selling to minors, local law enforcement wouldn’t be able to enforce the law. They could only report that establishment to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and that may take a significant amount of time before any action happens. Now with the State of Minnesota moving forward with T21, this allows local jurisdictions to include T21 as part of their tobacco ordinance to ensure they abide by and coincide with state law. This will allow local law enforcements to enforce the T21 law. If they don’t have this included in their local tobacco ordinance, it leads to uncertainty among law enforcement and what they can/can’t do.

 

In Meeker, McLeod, and Sibley counties, only one community has passed T21 prior to state law, which was Litchfield. It was a long process that took close to a year to be approved, mainly because the city was updating their entire tobacco ordinance and not just T21. With Minnesota passing T21, it is safe to say that Litchfield played some part in helping make Minnesota’s decision a little easier.

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