ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. – Following suit behind neighboring Twin Cities’ suburb Edina, St. Louis Park is poised to become the second city in Minnesota to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21.
At a special meeting of the St. Louis Park City Council on Monday, the first reading of an ordinance raising the purchasing age for tobacco and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 was approved on a 6-1 vote. A second reading of the ordinance is now scheduled for July 17.
“I initiated this discussion because it so well documented that people are more likely to develop a smoking habit if they start as teenagers,” Councilmember Susan Sanger said in a press release. “Smoking contributes significantly to many health issues, both for the smoker and those around them. 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 city’s process of initiating the change began at a study session on the issue in May. Informational meetings on the proposal were then held for the 23 tobacco vendors that operate in St. Louis Park, but only seven attendees were present.
Councilmember Steve Hallfin was the sole vote against the ordinance. His opposition hinges on the legal age of adulthood being 18.
“I abhor tobacco products, but this ordinance is misguided,” Hallfin said in the press release. “An 18 year old is considered an adult and can be a property owner, get married and go to war – I can’t see refusing to sell tobacco to them.”
The ordinance would also increase fines on vendors caught selling tobacco products to underage customers. A first offense would result in a fine between $250 and $500, a second would incur between $500 and $1000, and a third offense in the space of three years would incur a 30 day day tobacco license suspension. This was raised from three days in the same city council meeting.
Edina became the first city in Minnesota to approve a 21 and over tobacco purchasing age in May. That ordinance will go into effect on July 1. If St. Louis Park’s ordinance is approved in its second reading, it will go into effect on October 1.
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