Raising the age to purchase tobacco continues through process

Bipartisan legislation to raise the age to purchase tobacco products was heard this week in the Judiciary Committee. The legislation would make 21 the legal age to purchase tobacco products in every corner of the state. Federal legislation passed in 2019 raised the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, but details around that, including enforcement and health choices, were left to individual states. Minnesota’s bill includes alternative penalties and other details that help keep tobacco out of the hands of adolescents.

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 was heard in Health and Human Services Committee last session and will be heard next in Finance. (SF 463)