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Rochester senator wants to raise Minnesota's smoking age to 21

Rochester senator wants to raise Minnesota's smoking age to 21

State Sen. Carla Nelson, a Republican from Rochester, introduced a bill on Thursday that would raise the state's tobacco age to 21.

"Raising the tobacco age will prevent young people from smoking and save money, as those young people grow up to live healthier lives," said Sen. Nelson, a member of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

Two states, Hawaii and California, and more than 220 cities and counties throughout the U.S. have raised the tobacco age from 18 to 21. This week, Edina became the first Minnesota city to do so.

According to Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, raising the tobacco age would prevent 30,000 Minnesota kids from becoming smokers over the next 15 years. The health coalition is made up of over 50 organizations, including Mayo Clinic.

"Almost 95 percent of adult smokers started by 21. That means to prevent addiction, we must keep people from starting before then," said Molly Moilanen, co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. "Raising the tobacco age will help do that."

Additionally, the coalition estimates that tobacco use is responsible for more than 6,300 deaths and more than $3 billion in preventable health care costs every year in Minnesota.

But as the push to increase the smoking age begins to catch fire, some critics are skeptical of whether the movement will have its intended effect. They point out that smoking rates are already on the decline, and many smokers start before 18 anyways.

And as The Atlantic points out: "... there's also the problem of reconciling a country that can send its 18-year-olds off to war... where they can't smoke or drink. That's a tough sell, no matter that officials have their minds in the right place."

How do you feel about Sen. Nelson's proposed legislation? Join the discussion on Facebook.

Cover photo: File / Pixabay

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