Minnesota News Connection

May 26, 2020

Despite Victory, MN Smoking Prevention Efforts Continue

Mike Moen

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The people behind Minnesota’s smoking prevention efforts say they won’t let up, even though they’ve seen a major victory this legislative session.

The signing of the Tobacco 21 bill by Gov. Tim Walz came nearly two weeks ago, as lawmakers debated other matters related to the coronavirus pandemic. The law, which raises the state’s tobacco-buying age to 21, was seen as a top priority before the pandemic.

Laura Smith, senior public affairs manager for ClearWay Minnesota, says the anti-tobacco group is happy leaders still found time to adopt the measure, given the crisis. However, she says it’s just one part of a four-point plan.

“We also need to look at the price of tobacco products,” she states. “We need to look at flavors available, and we need to look at prevention funding.”

In a possible special session next month, lawmakers are expected to deal with issues centered around the pandemic. Smith says ClearWay Minnesota hasn’t yet asked lawmakers to revisit other prevention bills, but she hopes they’ll at least consider a flavored tobacco ban to discourage youth vaping.

Opponents of these efforts say they go too far and could harm smaller retailers, while creating a market of unregulated products.

Smith points out that youth vaping is still a major health issue, and says banning flavored tobacco would be a huge boost.

“Making sure that we can clear the market of flavored tobacco products in Minnesota, because we know that flavors really attract kids and especially when it comes to the vaping epidemic,” she states.

The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found that more than one in four 11th-graders and more than one in 10 8th-graders had used e-cigarettes in the previous month. From 2016 to 2019, 8th-grade vaping rates nearly doubled.