Minneapolis committee approves Tobacco 21 ordinance

Minneapolis is now one step closer to raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products, with the city's Public Health Committee approving a proposal Monday to prohibit tobacco purchases by those under the age of 21.

The new ordinance will be considered by the full City Council next week and, if passed, would go into effect in October.

It was standing room only for the committee hearing Monday afternoon, as advocates for the measure took every opportunity to cite recent research that showed more than 95 percent of current smokers started before they turned 21.

"For the first time in 17 years, overall tobacco use has risen," said Minneapolis healthcare provider Gretchen Musicant. "[This] threatens to overwhelm the progress public health strategies have made."

 Others, however, said the ordinance goes too far.

"It makes no since to entrust [young people with] the rights to vote, elect officials, marry, fight in wars for our country and participate in legal contracts if we can't even entrust them with the choice of smoking and chewing tobacco," Minneapolis resident Elizabeth Johnson said at the meeting.

If approved, Minneapolis would become the eighth Minnesota city to implement similar measures, joining Edina, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, North Mankato, Shoreview and Falcon Heights.