Crackdown on Tobacco Usage in Minnesota

Local cities are implementing new laws this summer, right after the legislature passed tax breaks on tobacco products.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Local cities in Minnesota are looking to crack down on tobacco usage in the state this summer.

The city of Minneapolis is looking to restrict the sales of menthol cigarettes in the city by categorizing them with flavored tobacco products in 18-plus smoke shops in the Twin Cities, according to the Star Tribune.

The cities of Edina and St. Louis Park have looked into the prospects of raising the age of purchase for tobacco products from 18 to 21. In June, Edina’s city council voted in favor of raising the ban, becoming the first city in the state to do so.

“Smoking contributes significantly to many health issues, both for the smokers and those around them,” St. Louis Park Councilwoman Susan Sanger said.  “Raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 is a very sensible and easy-to-enforce way to address this serious public health issue.” 

The prohibition of tobacco sales to those under 21 does not restrict those residents from purchasing cigarettes. Like the prohibition on Sunday liquor sales, residents can cross city lines to purchase cigarettes if they are over 18 years old.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a 2009 report shows 45 percent of first-time smokers are more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 32 percent of those who have smoked for a while.

Smoke Free Teen, a website run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Cancer Institute states that approximately one million teenagers (12-17), or half of teen smokers, chose menthol cigarettes as their go-to tobacco product between 2004 to 2008.

The rise in tobacco restrictions comes as the Minnesota legislature, led by Republicans in the House and Senate, approved tax cuts for cigarettes and premium cigars. After Gov. Mark Dayton defunded the legislature, his office cited tax breaks for tobacco, which he said were “special tax breaks” for “special moneyed friends,” as a condition to coming back to the negotiating table.

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