Now that the North Mankato City Council has voted to raise the minimum purchasing age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, the American Lung Association in Minnesota is urging the City of Mankato to do the same.

North Mankato leaders will not implement the policy until a decision is made to lower the purchase age on the other side of the river, and A.L.A. Minnesota senior manager of tobacco control Erin Simmons is urging Mankato to do so. She added, “There is tremendous support in the community on this issue and we believe that the council members will follow suit.”

The Mankato City Council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance at their meeting on February 12. Simmons also said they would like to see North Mankato pass the policy regardless of what takes shape in Mankato. “That is something that has been done in the metro area, where they have many neighboring communities, and throughout the country,” she explained, but also said, “We do greatly appreciate the leadership that they took…in taking those first steps.”

Simmons said other communities across the country have passed similar ordinances, and that has given them a good idea of what will happen to youth use if the purchase age is increased. “We would expect to see about a 25 percent decrease in youth use of tobacco products, and that is really because we know that 95 percent of adults initiated tobacco use before the age of 21,” she said.

The tobacco industry, Simmons said, has worked hard to market their products to younger people, including, “Fruit and candy flavored cigars and electronic cigarettes that are coming out in thousands of flavors, and are both appealing to young people but can also can be really confusing in terms of whether or not this is harmful. ‘If it tastes like candy, how bad could it be?'”

In addition to health and safety, Simmons said tobacco use costs each and every person $600 per year and that number is, “Not per user, but that’s a cost that is put on all of us through taxes, through health insurance costs, etc….”

Four other Minnesota cities have passed ordinances raising the tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21; Edina, St Louis Park, Bloomington and Plymouth.