(FOX 9) - Three new bills meant to curb smoking in Minnesota made strides in a house committee Tuesday. The House Health and Human Services Committee unanimously approved the legislation.
One of the bills would raise the statewide tobacco buying age to 21 years old, which several Minnesota counties and cities have already done.
During the hearing, Shoreview 10th Grader Anna Grace Hottinger testified that raising the tobacco buying age would stop younger students from getting addicted.
“18-year-olds can make it much, much easier for 12 to 17-year-olds to have access to e-cigs and all tobacco products. I support Tobacco 21 statewide, and would like to see Minnesota added to the states that are taking this step,” Hottinger said.
Hottinger also showed the committee how the hoodie she was wearing could conceal e-cigarette use.
“Some students even have clothing that are meant for vaping, such as a hoodie where e-cigs are disguised in the drawstrings. So this is an e-cig hoodie, and you can inhale it and exhale. Though, it is very hidden and I wouldn’t have even noticed myself,” Hottinger said.
A physician and school principal also testified in support of the bill.
“Young people throughout the state are making their voices heard about creating a smoke-free generation, and that’s really what this is about, kids realizing what their lives can and will be like if they stay tobacco free,” said Dr. Caleb Schultz, an anesthesiologist.
“After being caught using in school, many of our students say they know it’s bad, but they are so addicted they can’t go the hours of the school day without using. They tell us they do not know how to quit,” said Danette Seboe, Principal at Duluth East High School.
Another bill would prohibit electronic cigarettes in the same places mandated under the “Clean Indoor Air Act.” Passage would make e-cigarettes illegal in places like bars, offices and arenas.
“E-cigarette use is skyrocketing and people do not want them to encroach on the clean air they've enjoyed and come to expect in public places for over a decade,” said Emily Myatt, Government Relations Director for the American Cancer Society.
Opponents, however, believe passage would make it harder for smokers to quit.
“We think including this in the Clean Indoor Air Act is going to send the wrong message and will put those people who have used vapor successfully to quit smoking back out next to the people who are smoking, and it will not have the same effect and they could go back to smoking,” said Cap O'Rourke, representing independent vapor retailers.
A third bill would reallocate more money to programs that help people quit smoking.
As the legislation moves through committees in the house, supporters plan to introduce the same bills in the Senate.
Statement from JUUL
“We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try JUUL. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s one billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated.
"Tobacco 21 laws have been shown to dramatically reduce youth smoking rates, which is why we strongly support raising the minimum purchase age for all tobacco products, including vaping products like JUUL, to 21. Our secure website, JUUL.com, already requires all purchasers to be 21 and over. We look forward to working with policymakers at the federal, state and local levels to achieve Tobacco 21."