Suburb expected to make tobacco buying age 21

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, May 2, 2017

EDINA — A Twin Cities suburb is poised to become the first city in Minnesota to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

Edina City Council is expected to approve the measure Tuesday evening.

Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said the measure is comparative to the move to eliminate smoking in public places.

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“All of that had its genesis at the local level,” Hovland said. “And it percolated up to the state Legislature where finally something got done about it.”

Hovland said the proposed ordinance has broad community support in Edina.

National Association of Tobacco Outlets executive director Tom Briant said he is convinced the ordinance won’t curb youth tobacco use because people simply will drive to stores in nearby communities to buy what they want.

“What that means for Edina retailers is they will lose about 5 percent of their tobacco sales,” Briant said. “But it gets worse. Those same people will then buy their gasoline, their snacks, beverages and other products at the stores in the neighboring suburbs as well.”

Hovland said he understands there will be some economic impact on local stores.

“We just think on balance it’s more important that this tobacco age purchase be raised to 21 from 18 for these public-health purposes,” Hovland said. “On balance there’s a stronger impact there than there is an adverse economic impact on some of the dispensers of tobacco products.”

State Health Department data show that about 19 percent of high school students in 2014 admitted using some form of tobacco in the past 30 days, down sharply from 26 percent in 2011.