Sen. Carla Nelson joins bipartisan call for Tobacco 21 bill

Legislation would raise tobacco purchase age to 21 in MN

Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) joined kids, physicians, health advocates, and legislators from both sides of the aisle to make an impassioned plea for the Minnesota Legislature to pass Tobacco 21 legislation this session. Raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 in Minnesota will protect youth from commercial tobacco, especially as the nation faces an epidemic of teen e-cigarette addiction.

“The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found tobacco use had risen for the first time in nearly 20 years,” said Senator Nelson, chief-author of the Tobacco 21 bill in the Senate. “I find that unconscionable. As lawmakers and leaders in our families and communities, we cannot sit by as our kids develop lifetime addictions. We must stand up for our youth, and we must do it today. I hope our colleagues in the conference committee will listen to Minnesota kids and make Tobacco 21 part of their final legislation.”

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of reducing youth smoking and ending tobacco’s harm for good, joined the lawmakers and urged Minnesota to pass this bipartisan policy before session ends on May 20. Raising the tobacco age to 21 will reduce youth tobacco use and save lives. To date, twelve other states and 32 Minnesota cities and counties have passed Tobacco 21.

Recent surveys show e-cigarettes and other youth-targeted tobacco products threaten decades of progress to lower youth tobacco rates. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that a surge in e-cigarette use led to the first rise in youth tobacco rates in 17 years. This increase is concerning because nicotine harms the adolescent brain and primes young brains for addiction. The U.S. Surgeon General now calls teen e-cigarette use an epidemic and has called on states to implement aggressive strategies to reduce youth e-cigarette use.

Tobacco 21 aims to keep commercial tobacco products out of places youth frequent, including schools. Nearly 95 percent of addicted adult smokers start before age 21, so keeping tobacco products away from youth can prevent lifetime addiction. The National Academy of Medicine estimates that Tobacco 21 would reduce smoking among 15-to-17-year-olds by 25 percent.

In addition to Tobacco 21, Senator Nelson has championed two other important tobacco prevention and cessation policies that have already passed the Senate and House this year – funding for statewide quit-smoking services and strengthening the clean indoor air act by prohibiting indoor e-cigarette use where smoking is banned.

“E-cigarette use poses an immediate health threat for the next generation of Minnesotans, and it deserves an immediate solution,” added Senator Nelson. “I will continue to support initiatives that protect the health of our youngest citizens and improves the quality of life for everyone in our state.”