EDINA, Minn. – In an effort to discourage teen tobacco use, Edina is considering raising the purchasing age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old.
During a City Council meeting Tuesday night, residents had a chance to voice their opinion on the proposal. Many were supportive of the measure, referencing loved ones who began smoking at a young age and died of lung cancer later in life. Even several high school students voiced their concerns over teenage tobacco use.
The ordinance is inspired by the national campaign Tobacco 21, which has convinced over 210 cities across the country to change their tobacco laws.
“Tobacco 21 has been shown to work at the local level,” Dr. Caleb Schultz, of the city’s Community Health Commission, said. The proposal in Edina would raise the age requirement for all tobacco-related products, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes.
If the measure were to succeed, Edina would become the only city in the state to have a higher purchasing age for tobacco products. Skeptics do not see how this will be effective in keeping tobacco out of the hands of teenagers, and business owners are concerned how the ordinance would affect their bottom line. Mark Olsen, the manager of an Edina gas station, thinks the new law would merely hurt Edina businesses.
“These young adult consumers are very mobile and they will simply drive a couple of miles to Richfield, Bloomington, South Minneapolis, St. Louis Park or Minnetonka to buy their gas, snacks and other beverages,” Olsen said.
According to the Star Tribune, Edina has 18 licensed tobacco vendors including gas stations and convenience stores. None are stand-alone smoke shops.
The Edina City Council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance during the Tuesday night meeting. A second reading is scheduled for May 2, and if approved then, the ordinance would become law. It would go into effect 60 days after the May 2 vote.