Saturday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill to raise the legal sales age of tobacco products to 21. The American Lung Association applauds state lawmakers for passing the law, known as Tobacco 21, which is vital to community health.
“Thank you to Governor Walz and state lawmakers for taking this tremendous step in protecting our youth from the death and disease associated with tobacco use,” said Pat McKone, senior director of health promotions for the Lung Association. “This law is especially important with the COVID-19 pandemic because people who smoke and vape are at a 2.4 times higher risk for severe complications than non-smokers. Any condition that potentially effects the lungs such as smoking or vaping, regardless of the ingredients inhaled, could play a role in making someone more susceptible to complications from the disease. Tobacco 21 protects youth, reduces smoking rates, saves on healthcare costs and saves lives.”
Since nearly 95% of adult smokers report trying their first cigarette before the age of 21, raising the legal sales age can prevent young people from ever starting. According to the Minnesota Student Survey, 26.4% of 11th graders vaped in the past 30 days, which is a 54% increase from 2016. Additionally, the report revealed that 11.1% of eighth graders vaped in the last 30 days, which is a 95% increase compared to 2016. A National Academy of Medicine report states that younger kids often rely on older friends, classmates and peers to buy their tobacco products. Because students typically do not reach 21 years old while still in high school, Minnesota’s law will greatly reduce the number of high school students who have easy access to tobacco products.
Prior to the statewide law, more than 75 communities in Minnesota passed Tobacco 21 laws. On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law a spending bill that, among many measures, raised the legal sales age for all tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old nationwide. The Minnesota law now aligns with the federal law.
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through education, advocacy and research. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to champion clean air for all; to improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and to create a tobacco-free future. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.