The City of Mankato will hold a public hearing Monday night on an ordinance that would raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

McIntee said tobacco companies spend hundreds of thousands on marketing their products to young people, “To research ways to place their products at the eye level of young people, to create colorful candy flavored products for young people, and creating innovative ways to get young people hooked on these products – including low price points.”

The American Lung Association in Minnesota’s manager of tobacco programs Kelly McIntee said, “We’re looking for the Mankato City Council to join North Mankato to pass this policy.”

North Mankato officials passed the same local law last week, but officials have said they will not implement it unless Mankato does the same.

Statistically, McIntee said youth spend double the amount of time in convenience stores each week than adults, and tobacco companies spend hundreds of thousands on marketing their products to young people, “To research ways to place their products at the eye level of young people, to create colorful candy flavored products for young people, and creating innovative ways to get young people hooked on these products – including low price points.

The latest tobacco survey shows that in the Mankato school district there are a significant number of students who admitted to tobacco use. “In 11th grade, six percent of 11th grade males and 5 percent of 11th grade females smoke,” she explained, “And then 19 percent of males and 13 percent of 11th grade females have used tobacco devices, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco products.”

Among the products McIntee says are meant to appeal to youth are not just cheap, flavored cigars and fruity vaping liquids but apparel like this hoodie. The drawstring is actually vaping tubes and it includes a pocket to hide a vaping pen.

Convenience stores have a higher concentration of locations in areas where there are more low-income residents and there are also a higher number of tobacco sellers near high schools. “Mankato West High School is a great example,” McIntee said, “Where there are three retailers that carry tobacco products within walking distance.”

Which she said is a problem even for students under the current legal age of 18 because, “There are 18-year-olds in the same high school setting as those 17, 16, 16, and 14-year-olds. Therefore, making the products accessible and able to get into the hands of these young students because they have an 18-year-old in their social circle.

McIntee says this map shows how close convenience stores are to area schools. Blue dots represent school buildings, red dots stores that sell tobacco products. The larger light red circles show the 1,000 foot buffer tobacco control advocates would like to see implemented around schools.

The Mankato City Council will hold a public hearing on lowering the tobacco age during it’s regular meeting Monday night. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m.