ST. PAUL — Minnesotans younger than 21 would be prohibited from buying tobacco products under a proposal approved on an 89-41 vote Saturday, May 9, in the House of Representatives.
The proposal sets a statewide ban on selling tobacco and e-cigarette products to those younger than 21 and bars those under 21 from entering tobacco or vape shops. Businesses that sell tobacco products to those younger than 21 would face a $300 penalty after the first offense with higher fees on subsequent offenses. Those younger than 21 found buying tobacco products would face license suspensions and adults who furnish the products to them would face a $50 fine.
The federal government has hiked the minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21, and local governments around the state have enacted similar ordinances in their communities. But the measures are not being enforced across the state, the bill's supporters said.
"This statewide approach is necessary so we don't have some Minnesota communities enforcing a state age of 18 while some are enforcing the age of 21," Rep. Heather Edelson, D-Edina, said. "Our bill makes it clear there's only one tobacco age in Minnesota and that is 21."
The measure could come up for Senate consideration later this week. Smoking cessation advocates applauded the bill's passage and said the bill could help prevent children and young people in Minnesota from becoming addicted to tobacco and e-cigarettes.
A handful of Republican lawmakers said they supported the measure's goals, but worried it was overly punitive to business owners and employees who might slip up.
"Who are we penalizing?" Rep. Marion O'Neill, R-Maple Lake, said. “I don’t know that that’s the approach we should be making right now to penalize businesses that make a mistake.”
The bill also expands the Clean Indoor Air Act to cover charter schools and to ban the use of vaping products there.