ST. PAUL — Those younger than 21 will be prohibited from buying tobacco products in Minnesota beginning Saturday, Aug. 1.
A new statute is set to take effect that day, squaring state law with a federal measure that outlaws purchases of tobacco and e-cigarette products to those younger than 21. Under the law, those under 21 would also be prohibited 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. And anyone under 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 state lawmakers and advocates aiming to prevent tobacco addiction in young people said the measures weren't being enforced evenly across the state.
“Tobacco 21 is not the last step – but it’s an important first step toward preventing youth tobacco addiction," Molly Moilanen, vice president at ClearWay Minnesota and a co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, said in a news release. “Minnesotans are hungry for even more meaningful action to prevent youth addiction – let’s get it done.”
The new measure is set to take effect days after the Minnesota Department of Health reported another surge in cases of Minnesotans experiencing severe lung injuries associated with vaping. Eleven people between the ages of 14 and 46 were hospitalized following the use of vaping products and some required intensive care to recover from their injuries.
State health officials said many of those who experienced the lung injuries reported that they had used THC products in their vaping devices. THC is the principal and most active compound in marijuana.
The law would also extend the state's Clean Indoor Air Act to cover charter schools and bans the use of vaping products there.