Brooklyn Center and Otter Tail County voted to pass Tobacco 21 policies, becoming the state’s 16th and 17th local governments to raise the tobacco age to 21.
Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations working to reduce youth tobacco use, applauded the two communities in addressing youth tobacco addiction.
“In the face of an epidemic of youth nicotine addiction, leaders from Otter Tail County and Brooklyn Center are standing up for our kids,” said Molly Moilanen, director of Public Affairs at ClearWay Minnesota and co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “All our young people should be protected from a lifetime of addiction, and it’s inspiring to see the Tobacco 21 movement take flight all over our state. Together, we can lower youth tobacco use and save lives.”
These policies are partly in response to state and federal health agencies sounding the alarm on teen tobacco use. Teen tobacco use in Minnesota has risen, primarily due to an increase in e-cigarette use. The FDA recently called youth e-cigarette use an epidemic, and last week said it may soon ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarette pods in gas stations and convenience stores.
In a new health advisory, the Minnesota Department of Health called youth nicotine addiction a “major health concern” because nicotine in e-cigarettes can prime youth for future addiction. Nicotine harms the developing adolescent brain, whether in a cigarette, e-cigarette or other product.
Brooklyn Center joins Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Shoreview, Falcon Heights, Minneapolis, St. Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale and Hermantown as Minnesota’s first Tobacco 21 cities. Otter Tail County is the first in Minnesota to adopt Tobacco 21 at the county level. Nationwide, six states and more than 360 cities have passed Tobacco 21 policies.
In addition to raising the tobacco age, Brooklyn Center passed a policy that restricts the sale of e-cigarettes to adult-only tobacco stores. In Brooklyn Center, the final vote was unanimous, and the policy is set to implement on Dec. 21.