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Mayor Kills Attempt To Raise The Tobacco, E-Cigarette Age To 21

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The mayor of a Minnesota city rejected an attempt by officials to raise the legal purchasing age for tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21.

The St. Cloud City Council passed the Tobacco 21 ordinance Tuesday in a tight 4-3 vote, however St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis swiftly vetoed it, voicing his stance that it is a commerce issues that should be left to the state government. Kleis previously said it seemed extreme to ban adults who can legally serve in the military from buying a legal product. Tobacco control advocates are organizing support for a Nov. 20 vote the council is holding to override the veto, however the coalition will need the support of five council members, reports Star Tribune.

St. Louis Park, Bloomington and a few other cities in the state have passed similar ordinances, however, the issue remains contentious. Without a uniform policy at the state level, there will be a shift in consumer spending on tobacco and vapor products, unfairly hurting small businesses in cities with a higher purchasing age.

“This is not preventing anyone between the ages of 18 and 21 from smoking,” Kleis said Tuesday, according to MPR News. “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.”

The effort to raise the purchasing age, dubbed Tobacco 21, is currently in place in six states and 250 cities across the country. The tobacco restrictions also apply to electronic cigarettes, nicotine-based products that do not contain tobacco and are proven to be effective tools for quitting smoking.

Critics argue tobacco age hikes are government overreach into the lives of adults that only serves to cripple small business retailers who rely on sales from these products. They also question the necessity of such restrictions, pointing to consistent drops in the youth smoking rate for years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of teens using any tobacco product declined in 2016 from 4.7 million to 3.9 million and the number of middle school and high school students who use a vaping device dropped from 3 million to 2.2 million.

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