Minnesota's largest city is set to take up the T21 debate. Minneapolis city council members met Friday morning and agreed to bring the debate before the public in a hearing set for Monday, May 14th. The hearing will be open to public comment and discussion ahead of the council's final vote on the hot button issue.
T21 is a movement that seeks to raise the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. The thought behind the movement is that raising the age to match alcohol sales will make it much harder for High School kids to get their hands on the products.
“This is an ordinance that will save lives,” said City Council Member Andrew Johnson, a co-author of the measure alongside Council Member Jeremiah Ellison. “It’s clearly been a good idea that’s gained a lot of traction, because five other cities have passed it. And we think it’s time Minneapolis does so as well.”
But what the council members do not say, and many news organizations fail to notice, is that T21 has failed in more places than it has passed in the state. 4 cities may have enacted the measure, but 3 times as many proposals have been shot down statewide.
Image courtesy of THR4L (Tobacco Harm Reduction for Life)
Opponents, especially in the vaping industry, raise concerns about what will happen to young adults who seek smoke-free alternatives. A significant portion of today's ex-smokers quit between the ages of 18-20 and the fear is that this measure leaves them without access to vape products; whose goal is to get people off of cigarettes. Another concern is the patchwork of laws, making the rules confusing and doing nothing to stop young adults from driving a town over to get what they're looking for.
The strategy is part of an overall goal to push for a statewide T21 law, and indeed the measure is set to come before the Minnesota legislature this session. Currently 5 states and District of Columbia have enacted T21 laws.