Minnesota could raise the minimum age for tobacco purchases under a proposal in the Legislature.

Mankato shot down such a local ordinance this year, but is on its way to passage in St. Peter, and is still under consideration in North Mankato.

The “Tobacco 21” bill would add to that momentum by raising the minimum age statewide. Laura Smith with ClearWay Minnesota said it’s a simple change that would go a long way to reduce health problems and health-care costs in the state because, “If we can prevent people under 21 from starting, then we can really reduce the number of young people who are becoming addicted smokers.”

Opponents argue that there’s little evidence raising the purchase age will curb the use of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or vaping supplies, and retailers also worry about losing sales. But the bill has bipartisan support, with 14-co-sponsors – five of whom signed on just this week.

The chief sponsor of the measure is Republican Representative Dario Anselmo of Edina, the first city in the state to raise the tobacco-purchase age. He believes the healthcare savings would more than balance the estimated two to four percent lost annual revenue for retailers. “Three billion dollars of hard costs to our state of Minnesota, another four [billion] in lost productivity – so, $7 billion. If people talk about saving healthcare costs, this seems like a pretty easy target to me,” he explained, and added, “There’s an economic piece to everything we do. We just have to make the better choice.”

The “Tobacco 21” bill has been assigned to the Health and Human Services Reform Committee in the House.