Physicians with the Mankato Clinic are urging the North Mankato City Council to vote to raise the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21, following the city’s upcoming public hearing.

Mankato Clinic Physician Dr. Nathaniel Graham said studies show that 95 percent of adult smokers start before age 21, and, “If we can increase the age to 21 that would help to decrease the usage of tobacco and give these 18, 19, 20-year-olds longer time to make the decision to smoke in the hopes that they will make the right decision.”

Surveys also show that a clear majority of adults favor raising the tobacco age to 21. Graham explained, “Seventy-five percent of people, all combined, do support raising the age to 21 but even people that smoke, 70 percent of people that smoke also support increasing the age to 21 as well.”

Graham said he’s even more passionate about this issue, following his father’s death a year ago at age 60 from lung cancer. “He started smoking a 15-year-old at West high School,” Graham said, “And he was never able to quit smoking.”

An eye doctor at the Mankato Clinic, Graham said cancer is far from the only danger and, “It will increase the risk of macular degeneration by four times. So, macular degeneration affects 2.2 million people in the U.S. and can cause blindness.”

The American Lung Association in Minnesota said the state spends $3.2 billion annually on tobacco-related health care costs, which equals about $600 per person, per year. According to a 2017 report, tobacco claims 5,900 lives each year and is the leading cause of preventable death in the state.

The North Mankato City Council will hold its public hearing on the Tobacco 21 proposal Tuesday evening at 7:00 p.m. They could vote on the matter on February 6th.

The Mankato City Council will hold a public hearing February 12th on its proposal with a vote expected following the hearing.