Lilydale joins growing list of cities to increase tobacco purchase age

The Lilydale City Council voted unanimously on May 13 to become the latest city to raise the age for tobacco sales to 21. 

It also banned the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city — the date on which both changes take effect has yet to be set.

The passage of the ordinances makes Lilydale the 33rd community in the state to raise the tobacco buying age to 21. Mendota Heights passed its own age change earlier this year.

Lilydale Mayor Warren Peterson said the council heard a presentation from a group of students from St. Thomas Academy earlier this year about the epidemic of vaping — the use of e-cigarettes — in schools. 

“At school, bathrooms are where most vaping takes place,” high school student Jack Folkman told the council. “I walk into bathrooms most of the time and it just smells like flavored smoke.”

Reuben Vizelman, a Lilydale resident and high school student, told the council it’s upsetting to see his friends become addicted to nicotine.

“I’ve watched my friends start vaping and say they won’t get addicted. They become daily users and continually increase their nicotine dosage in the e-juice they buy, searching for ways to feed their addiction,” he said.

Peterson said that based on the testimony from the St. Thomas Academy students, the council recognized high school vaping as an issue.

Lilydale adopted the same ordinance as Mendota Heights, with Peterson noting the issue is not something unique to Lilydale. The council received more than a dozen letters from organizations in support of the changes.

The ordinance amendments prohibit the sale of tobacco products and products containing nicotine to anyone under 21. It also prohibits the sale of flavored nicotine and tobacco products including mint, menthol and wintergreen.

Youth e-cigarette use has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past three years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. A 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that nearly one in five Minnesota High School students use e-cigarettes.

A press release from the Tobacco-Free Alliance states that “approximately 95% of current adult smokers started before they turned 21. If youth don’t start smoking before the age of 21, they likely never will.” The rationale behind changing the purchase age from 18 to 21 is that most high school kids don’t know someone who is 21.

Lilydale is now the 11th Minnesota city to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco and is the eighth to restrict the sale of menthol.

Peterson said the toughest question was whether to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products to individuals over 21 with the outright ban that eventually passed.

“That was one of the issues that was a little troubling,” he said.

Peterson said no one aggressively spoke out against the prohibition and there was no pushback from businesses that sell the products.

Raising the age to purchase tobacco and the ban of flavored products is a national movement, Peterson noted. JUUL, the most popular e-cigarette with roughly 70% of the market, is trying to get legislation passed that prohibits the sale of its products to people under the age of 21.

“The thing is, the stuff is so addictive and powerful, it’s multiple packs of cigarettes [nicotine-wise], depending on how much they want to put in that JUUL container,” Peterson said.

 

–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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