The St. Cloud City Council has voted to become the first city outside the Twin Cities to raise the age to legally purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, but the fate of the measure is uncertain.
After a lengthy public hearing in which dozens of people spoke on both sides of the issue, the City Council voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance. However, Mayor Dave Kleis says he will veto it.
Edina and St. Louis Park have already raised the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21. So have five states: California, Oregon, Hawaii, New Jersey and Maine.
The City Council in Bloomington also voted to increase the age to 21 in a unanimous vote Monday night.
Current Minnesota law prohibits the sale of tobacco to people younger than 18.
The move was supported by an organization called Crave the Change, part of CentraCare Health Foundation. Several CentraCare health care professionals spoke in favor of the ordinance.
Julie Anderson, a family physician with the St. Cloud Medical Group, said raising the minimum age has been effective at reducing tobacco use among teenagers in other cities.
"We know that 90 percent of supply that teens get their tobacco is from this age group," Anderson said. "So if we can limit the supply of this tobacco to this age, then we can effectively reduce the smoking rates around our teens."
David Tilstra, a pediatrician and president of CentraCare Clinic, also testified in favor of the ordinance.
"I've seen many kids over the years who've started smoking," Tilstra said. "Smoking is an issue that starts young, and over 90 percent of our adult smokers will start before the age of 18. And keeping the tobacco out of their hands in some way helps to keep them from starting a lifelong time of smoking."
Tamara Jett of St. Cloud talked about her mother, who was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer at age 66. She started smoking when she was 14.
"I'm also a mom," Jett said. "My kids are 14 and 16, and they see their grandmother suffer because she started to smoke at the age they are now."
Kleis was against the ordinance change and said after the vote that he will veto the ordinance.
Kleis said he opposes smoking, but believes it's a commerce issue that should be decided by the state, not the city.
"This is not preventing anyone between the ages of 18 and 21 from smoking," he said. "That can only be done by the state. This is preventing somebody from purchasing a legal product that the state has determined is a legal product."
Kleis also said since 18-year-olds can vote and serve in the military, they should be able to decide whether to buy a legal product.
Some vape shop owners spoke against the ordinance because they said it would limit access to e-cigarettes, which they said is an effective way to quit smoking.
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