Edina becomes the first Minnesota city to up the smoking age to 21

The new rule comes into effect July 1.

A landmark evening in Edina saw the city council vote to raise the age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21, becoming the first city in Minnesota to take such a step.

The unanimous vote to change the city's ordinance on tobacco sales means the city's 18 tobacco retailers have to change their policies between now and July 1, when the new rules go into effect.

Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Jim Hovland said the city has been "comfortable leading the way" on the new tobacco age, believing the change will benefit public health.

Among those in attendance was Molly Moilanen, the co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, who told the Star Tribune: "We're hopeful that this will spur other communities to take notice and action."

The new rule applies to all tobacco products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, rolling papers and chewing tobacco, according to the meeting agenda. People under the age of 21 who use a fake ID to buy any of these products would be committing a misdemeanor.

Congratulations to Edina - The first city in MN to raise the tobacco age to 21! #T21MN

Posted by Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation on Tuesday, 2 May 2017

But the move faced opposition from, among others, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, who told MPR it will cause Edina retailers to lose 5 percent of sales and won't curb tobacco use among 18- to 21-year-olds, who will just drive to the nearest city where the age is still 18.

The Star Tribune notes the majority of tobacco sellers in the city are gas stations and convenience stores. Edina's three municipal liquor stores sell tobacco too, but Hovland says the city will consider pulling tobacco from shelves in these stores.

But campaign group Tobacco-Free Kids claims 95 percent of smokers start using tobacco before the age of 21, and that limiting access for 18- to 21-year-olds could be critical given it's the time many move from experimental to more regular use.

What's more, many of those who start smoking under the age of 18 get their cigarettes from adults aged 18-21.

While Edina is the first in Minnesota to do this, Tobacco21 notes more than 100 cities across the U.S. – including New York, Cleveland and Kansas City – have bans on tobacco sales to people under 21. In Massachusetts alone more than 80 communities have such ordinances.

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