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Supporters of Tobacco-Control Bills Make Push at MN Capitol

While many Minnesota cities, along with the federal government, have raised the tobacco-buying age to 21, there's still a push for a statewide mandate. (Adobe Stock)
While many Minnesota cities, along with the federal government, have raised the tobacco-buying age to 21, there's still a push for a statewide mandate. (Adobe Stock)
February 28, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Bills related to smoking prevention have seen a flurry of activity in recent days at the Minnesota capitol. Supporters hope the measures continue to advance, while opponents speak out against some of the legislation.

One bill, endorsed by a pair of Senate committees this week, would raise the tobacco-buying age to 21. Even though similar action was recently taken at the federal level, Laura Smith - spokesperson for ClearWay Minnesota - says states need their own laws to provide enforcement clarity.

"Our state Tobacco 21 law does things like require signage," says Smith, "and it creates a public database so we can see how we're doing when it comes to compliance checks that are already happening."

While that bill hasn't encountered strong opposition this session, some lawmakers in past sessions have questioned whether the move would create an underground market.

Meanwhile, opponents have been more vocal about a separate bill that would ban all flavored tobacco products. They issued the same argument about an underground market of illegal products being sold.

But Smith and others say flavored tobacco items pose a danger because of a strong interest among teens.

Smith adds that temporary federal restrictions are not strong enough, and leave plenty of products on the shelves for young adults to get their hands on.

"If we can take the flavor out of it," says Smith, "we can really get rid of the attractiveness factor of e-cigarette use."

The flavor-ban measure gets a committee hearing today in the House. Other tobacco bills being considered include banning smoking in cars with children present, and reauthorization of smoking prevention efforts.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN