Little Canada looks to increase tobacco purchase age

Little Canada is the latest north suburban community looking to keep tobacco products out of the hands of young people by increasing its tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21.

The Little Canada City Council held a public hearing on the matter April 24 and is looking to vote on an ordinance making the age change official at its May 8 meeting.

If the council votes to approve the ordinance — it requested it to be prepared in March — the city would join neighbors Roseville and Shoreview in upping the age, along with Arden Hills, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale, among some 26 other Minnesota cities as of the beginning of April.

Supporters of Tobacco 21 — that’s the shorthand for the campaign behind raising the age — donned green t-shirts and filled the council chambers for the hearing.

Much of the impetus behind area age changes has come from the Minnesota Department of Health’s 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco survey, which found that youth tobacco use in high schools had increased for the first time in 17 years. The jump was largely due to e-cigarettes.

A representative from the Association of Nonsmokers-Minnesota highlighted other findings, including that some 59% of people aged 18 and 19 have been asked to buy cigarettes for someone younger. Other findings say that 95% of adult smokers started prior to being 21 themselves.

One of the stated aims of the Tobacco 21 movement is to effectively take tobacco products out of high schools, the reasoning being that secondary school-aged kids likely don’t know someone who’s 21.

Roseville Area School Board member Curtis Johnson, a Little Canada resident, spoke in favor of the ordinance, as did a Roseville Area High School student, who said she’d seen a huge drop-off in e-cig use at her school since other area communities increased the purchase age.

Following the uniformly positive comments from the public, Mayor John Keis stated that he’d be backing the ordinance for very personal reasons. He said his father died of lung cancer, and that his mother would have, if not for other health issues.

The city has seven licensed tobacco sellers: two dedicated tobacco shops and five convenience stores or bars that also sell. The city mailed them letters on April 2 alerting them to the pending city action.

City documents note that “Little Canada appears to be a popular location for tobacco sales as staff receives a few calls every year from people wanting to open additional tobacco and hookah stores.” The city limits the number of licenses it issues for dedicated tobacco shops to its current two.

The city, like others, would still be bound by state law that puts the legal age to possess and use tobacco products at 18. If passed, the ordinance would take effect 30 days after its publication.


—Mike Munzenrider

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