Legislators take a look at raising the age to purchase tobacco

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Bipartisan legislation to raise the age to purchase tobacco products was heard in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee this week. The legislation would make 21 the legal age to purchase tobacco products in every corner of the state.

It is widely known that nicotine harms the developing adolescent brain and causes significant health issues such as heart disease and lung cancer. In addition to the health impacts, smoking is a huge cost burden on society and payers of health care services, amounting to $3 billion in excess health care costs annually in Minnesota.

Numerous studies and surveys lay out a strong case for rasing the age to purchase tobacco statewide. A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that almost 95% of addicted adult smokers started smoking before age 21; the Institute of Medicine found that raising the age to 21 would reduce smoking in 15 to 17-year-olds by 25%; and research from the CDC found that 75% of Americans support raising the age to 21, including 70% of smokers.

The legislation comes after years of work by dozens of health and community organizations seeking to curb the number of nicotine-addicted adult smokers by raising the legal purchasing age. Similar laws have been passed in cities and states across the country.  Right now, 23 cities and counties have already passed similar ordinances in Minnesota. Advocates of the bill hope to add the entire state to the list.

The bill passed and was referred to the Judiciary Committee. (SF 463)