City also removes penalties for purchasing, using

The Eagan City Council made it official Tuesday.

It is now against city ordinance to sell tobacco, electronic cigarettes and any related products to anyone younger than 21 in Eagan.

The City Council has also removed penalties for people who purchase, use or procure tobacco.

Instead, the focus will be on those who sell to people younger than 21.

In December 2019, President Donald Trump signed legislation raising the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products to age 21, making it illegal for retailers to sell to those under 21, but local action is still needed on enforcement measures.

The city received several letters from anti-smoking agencies and from residents urging the city to increase the legal age to 21 and to remove the procurement penalties.

“Increasing the tobacco sales age should not be about punishing kids,” according to a letter from the American Heart Association. “It should be about protecting them from a lifetime of addiction.”

Removing the penalties have not been proven to reduce tobacco use and they open the door to selective enforcement against young persons of color, according to American Heart Association. The focus should be on supporting young people kick their addictions rather than punish.

Stigma is not an effective public health intervention and it may keep kids from seeking cessation treatment or education, according to Minnesota Tobacco Free Alliance.

Instead, the focus should be on the “irresponsible retailers” and the tobacco industry who target youth, the Association For Non-Smokers wrote.

Several letters from residents, including teenagers, noted an increase in vaping among young people and urged the city to help.

According to the American Heart Association, almost 95 percent of addicted adult smokers start before 21.

Other new regulations include the requirement for license holders to provide proof of training in tobacco sales for staff. License holders also have to be at least 21.

The ordinance also increases the number of compliance checks per year from one to two. Those completing the annual compliance checks will be between 15 and 20 years old.

Several minutes of discussion dealt with how the ordinance modification mixes with state law.

City Attorney Michael G. Dougherty said someone who purchases, uses or procures tobacco could still be in violation of state law.

“Irrespective of what the city does, overall a minor cannot possess tobacco products,” he said.

A bill to increase the legal age to 21 passed by the Minnesota House 2019, but it died in the Senate.

Council Member Gary Hansen said one of the reasons they asked the city to moved in this direction is because they heard from residents that retailers weren’t going to change their practice until the city adopts its ordinance.

“We’re not going to wait for the Minnesota Legislature to act on this,” Hansen said.

Mayor Mike Maguire noted the city “will be consistent with federal policy and the state will be out of step with the three levels of governments there. It would be great to get the state in line.”

The changes are effective upon the publication of the ordinance, which typically occurs three or four days after an ordinance is approved.

City staff will communicate the changes to license holders.

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