Statewide T-21 Bill to Be Heard in House Committee Feb. 12

A bill that would increase to 21 the age at which you can purchase tobacco products statewide will be heard Feb. 12 in the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in Room 200 of the State Office Building. 

The bill (HF 331) seeks to do what cities and counties have been doing over the past two years but at a statewide level – prohibit the sale of cigarette and other tobacco products to anyone under 21. The bill is authored by Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL – Edina). The Senate companion, authored by Sen. Carla Nelson (R – Rochester), has not been scheduled for a hearing yet.

So far there are 20 Minnesota cities and three counties across the state that have passed T-21 ordinances. Cities include: Bloomington, Brooklyn Center, Duluth, Eden Prairie, Edina, Excelsior, Falcon Heights, Hermantown, Lauderdale, Mendota Heights, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, North Mankato, Plymouth, Richfield, Roseville, Shoreview, St. Louis Park, St. Peter and Waseca. Counties include: Beltrami, Pope and Otter Tail.  

The MMA has been a strong supporter of T21 efforts, both at the state and local level. “Physicians have played a key role in supporting local initiatives, and their great work has set the table for the Legislature to consider a statewide policy,” said Eric Dick, the MMA’s manager of state legislative affairs. “Raising the age to purchase tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other products containing nicotine will reduce use among young adults and, perhaps even more markedly, adolescents. For many 14- and 15-year-olds, tobacco products are readily available thanks to older students in high schools.”

Tobacco use remains Minnesota’s leading cause of preventable death and disease, costing an estimated $7 billion annually and taking the lives of more than 6,300 Minnesotans every year. However, in Minnesota alone, the tobacco industry still spends more than $100 million a year marketing its products.    

Smoking rates in Minnesota had been declining for decades, but the adult cigarette smoking rate has stalled at 14 percent, and for the first time in a generation youth tobacco use has increased. Youth and young adult e-cigarette rates have increased significantly, and today about one in five Minnesota high-schoolers and young adults (18-24-year-olds) uses e-cigarettes.

Other MMA-supported tobacco-related bills to be heard include: 

HF 349 would include e-cigarettes in the smoking definition under Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.  Current state law prohibits the use of the devices in government buildings, including schools, as well as s in hospitals, clinics, and other health care buildings.  The bill would extend the prohibition to bars and restaurants.

HF 350 would fund statewide cessation services to help Minnesotans quit using tobacco products.  Existing funding for the state’s Quitline is slated to expire in 2021.