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Bloomington City Council Votes To Raise Minimum Age To Buy Tobacco

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) -- The city of Bloomington has become the next city to raise the minimum age requirement to buy cigarettes.

Monday night, the city council voted on a proposal to raise the legal age from 18 to 21. The council voted 6-0 in favor of the proposal.

The proposal covers all tobacco-related products, including e-cigarettes.

City leaders say the goal is to try to reduce access to these products to teenagers.

At least 270 cities have passed laws that raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco from 18 to 21.

St. Louis Park and Edina were the first in Minnesota to make the change.

Bloomington's public health administrator says the proposal hits at the heart of the problem.

"Basically, it's just about preventing those younger teens from getting access to tobacco and becoming addicted," Bonnie Paulsen said.

She believes it will make it harder for younger teens to get their hands on cigarettes that come from older friends.

"So they are not going to a store and being able to purchase it. But they are getting it from the student who is sitting next to them at high school that's 18. And so, basically that is how they are getting the tobacco and that is how they are getting addicted," she said.

Paulsen says the city's Advisory Board of Health spent a lot of time reviewing research on tobacco use.

"I think we have to remember that tobacco continues to be the number one killer across the world. It kills more people than any other type of disease," she said.

Petitions were circulating throughout Bloomington opposing the minimum age change.

Jennifer Swanson is the owner of One Stop Vape Shop, a store that sells e-cigarettes.

"I wish they would exclude vaping from that," Swanson said.

She says many of her customers are vaping because they are trying to quit smoking.

Like 20-year-old Joe Reese who says he started smoking cigarettes when he was 15 years old.

"I haven't smoked in two years, a year and a half or so and it's just made me feel healthier and makes me not want to smoke," Reese said.

"These people are 18 years old. They're able to fight in a war. They're still tried as an adult if they get into trouble. They still should be able to make the decision," said Swanson.

In the last few months, they've already had meetings to get feedback from the community and they've listened to presentations from the non-profit tobacco control agency, ClearWay Minnesota.

St. Cloud's city council also voted to raise the minimum tobacco buying age to 21 Monday night, but St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said he would veto the measure.

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