St. Cloud's mayor vetoes raising the tobacco age to 21; Bloomington approves it

One mayor vetoed the move to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21.

Bloomington is now the third Twin Cities suburb to raise its tobacco-buying age to 21 but the idea failed to spread beyond the metro area when St. Cloud's mayor vetoed a similar measure after the city council approved it Monday. 

Minnesota law allows anyone 18 or older to buy tobacco. But this year a couple of cities – first Edina in May, then St. Louis Park in July – bumped that age up to 21. 

More than 40 people testified at Monday's public hearing, the St. Cloud Times reports, before the city council voted 4-3 in favor of raising the age. 

Mayor Dave Kleis said immediately, though, that he would veto the ordinance making the change and KNSI reports he did so on Tuesday.

Kleis told the radio station the issue should be decided at the state level, adding that this is only his second veto in 13 years as mayor. 

He told the Times that when the U.S. Constitution was amended to lower the voting age to 18, that became the age of maturity.

"If we feel someone is mature enough and smart enough to make that decision, and if they're old enough to fight for the country, I think we have to be consistent in that age," he said.

St. Cloud's city administrator told the paper it would take a 5-2 vote from the council to override the mayor's veto.

Unanimous approval in Bloomington

Bloomington's city council voted 6-0 Monday to change its tobacco ordinance to prohibit purchases by anyone younger than 21. Mayor Gene Winstead supported the amendment.

Many supporters of the higher age say it helps keep tobacco out of the hands of younger teenagers, who often get cigarettes from friends older than 18. 

The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids says research shows 95 percent of adult smokers took up the habit before they turned 18. They say keeping teens from smoking would have long-term health benefits.

The Campaign says in addition to the five states that have raised the age to 21, at least 270 counties and cities have done it, too, including New York City, Chicago, and Boston. 

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