Edina considers 21-year minimum age for buying smokes

It’s not quite clear whether Edina thinks raising the smoking age to 21 is merely a message or whether the city believes it will make a difference.

The Star Tribune reports that the City Council this week voted to draft an ordinance banning tobacco sales to anyone under 21.

As 18-to-21-year-olds tend to be a resourceful — and mostly: adult — lot, those who want to smoke will figure out how to buy a pack of smokes when they live in a “dry town.” Young adults can figure out where the town’s border is.

“If we can have a direct local impact on the health of our residents and [try] to do something that’s positive … we’ll take that step,” Edina Mayor Jim Hovland tells the paper.

This is in a city that still runs its own liquor stores. Check out the number of DWI’s in the latest Edina crime report.

The city would be one of 210 nationwide to raise the minimum age, and there appears to be no subsequent move at the Legislature to strip a community’s right to do so, as there was in the last few weeks with a minimum wage and sick-time rules considered by some cities. But those would actually make a difference, possibly explaining the reluctance to wade into a generally meaningless ordinance.

Dr. Caleb Schultz of the city’s Community Health Commission, cited a 2013 study showing 13 percent of 11th graders in Edina had used tobacco products in the previous month. “By raising the age to 21, you’re essentially getting tobacco out of high schools,” Schultz tells the Star Tribune.

Don’t hold your breath.

  • Gary F

    When I see kids smoking I tell them “keep it up, there is a DFL legislator addicted to spending that needs a fix”. They give me either a scowl or confused look.

    The beast needs to be fed, keep smoking.

    I can’t afford to smoke. This kids must be rich. Oh, ya, its Edina.

  • MrE85

    Have you considered that Edina takes the health risks of smoking seriously, and that it wants to do whatever it can to make sure another generation doesn’t get hooked on tobacco?

    Sure, 18-year olds could buy cigarettes in the next town. Just as when communities began passing local ordinances on smoking in bars and clubs, people could move on to the next community that allowed smoking. However, many city and county leaders took their job seriously then, too. They saw how the county or city next to them successfully cleared the air, and heard the voices of many of their residents asking for the same. They noticed that smoke-free bars did not shut down, as critics had predicted, that personal liberties remained intact, and that going out for a drink was a lot more pleasant experience for the majority of adults.

    Moving the smoking age to 21 is the right thing to do. Very few people start smoking after that age, the tobacco companies know this and do their best to hook potential smokers while they are young, Cities and counties, realizing the public health risk, begin to take appropriate action. Sooner or later, the state legislature will as well.

    You can take that to the bank.

    • John O.

      Any movement to do the same with vaping? We have a friend who decided she was going to vape. Her husband, a mechanic at Delta, looked at the label of the vape liquid and told her that one of the ingredients is used to de-ice aircraft. She stopped right then and there.

      I see (mostly) younger folks vaping. I suspect de-icing one’s lungs isn’t likely to yield good outcomes either. Or having one of those devices shorting out in your pants pocket.

      • MrE85

        Yep. Our position on the silly gizmos has been the same from the start. If these unregulated nicotine delivery devices are going to mimic tobacco, treat ’em like tobacco, with taxes and local ordinances.

      • Kassie

        A little secret, a lot of young people vaping aren’t vaping tobacco. AND, you can vape dried pure tobacco or marijuana in some of those things, so you don’t have the weird chemicals.

        • MrE85

          There are plenty of things in the so-called “pure” tobacco you don’t want in your body, Kassie.

          Those who think “no additives” tobacco products are somehow safer are fooling themselves — or are being fooled by clever marketing campaigns using Native American symbols and the like. There is no such thing as a safe smoke.

          It’s like saying, “Sure, you can drink that strychnine. It’s organic!”

          • Kassie

            Sure, I’m not arguing that. I’m saying that a lot of what is being vaped isn’t actually tobacco and that not everyone who does vape tobacco is using those vaping liquids with de-icers or whatever in it.

        • John O.

          Thank you for that information! It isn’t something I would invest much time into researching in-depth.

          • Kassie

            I just got back from Oregon and learned many things!

      • jon

        Did she give up ice cream too?

        “Propylene glycol is also used in various edible items such as coffee-based drinks, liquid sweeteners, ice cream, whipped dairy products and soda”


        Not a fan of vaping… but also not a fan of the “Be scared there are chemicals!”

        I mean airplane deicer also contains dihydrogen monoxide, and every municipal water supply in the country contains loads of that stuff… but no one seems to mind.

        • John O.

          From his perspective, it yielded the desired outcome.

    • Mike

      There’s a huge difference between banning something in public for health reasons, and banning private use. A bartender can limit my alcohol consumption in public, but there’s no law against my getting as drunk as I like in private.

      Obesity is also a huge public health risk, and one that has grown to equal or outpace smoking in the last 20 years. Should the government also mandate that I be 21 to buy a can of soda? Why not?

      • MrE85

        First of all, nothing is being “banned” here, as we did to alcohol during Prohibition. What is happening is a community is considering the legal age limit for purchasing a potentially addicting product with clear and proven health risks and societal costs.

        Since you brought up booze sales, it’s a good example of a product that can’t be legally sold to people under 21 years of age. This ordinance would treat tobacco the same way. It’s pretty straight forward.

        You will have to bring up your other questions to the fat and soda police. Because brother, that isn’t me.

        • Mike

          Sorry, but you are definitely proposing to ban it for anyone between the ages of 18-21. See my other comment here on the alleged wisdom of banning alcohol sales until age 21. It’s not nearly as smart as you seem to think.

          The logic for banning soda sales for young people is identical to the logic for a tobacco ban. You don’t want to acknowledge that because, as you admit, it’s not your cause.

          Here’s the thing: you don’t get to ban a substance for someone else just because you don’t approve of their use of it. That’s an abuse of government power.

          • MrE85

            Nothing fires up commenters like a good old fashioned thread on smoking restrictions. Reminds me of MNSpeak, in the old days.

  • Dave S.

    Welcome back, Bob! Hope you’re tanned and rested.

    • Thanks, back fulltime on Friday. Just easing back in with a few still-on-vacation posts.

      • Doron Clark

        I agree with Dave!

  • Mike

    This is just more drug-war thinking, the puritanical American notion that it’s the government’s responsibility to micromanage how people live their lives. And since the drug war has been so spectacularly successful, by all means let’s double down on it. Let’s further infantilize the young adult population, and give more power to police to harass young people for petty, made-up “crimes”. I get the feeling that Mayor Hovland and the city council all have sterling futures in government. I’m sure a tax increase will be needed for enforcement!

    • BJ


      Recent research show that brain development isn’t done until around 25.

      >Mayor Hovland and the city council all have sterling futures in government

      Mayor Hovland had 7 years on council and is on 3rd term as mayor.

      • Mike

        What’s the point you’re trying to make? Let’s look at alcohol: the US is one of only a handful of countries that make age 21 the legal limit for drinking, and binge drinking may be more of a problem here than in various countries where the legal age is 18 or 19. If 25 is the new age of mental adulthood, why should we allow anyone under that to join the armed forces, vote, own a home, or do any number of other things that adults (but not minors) are entitled to?

        I hope the mayor’s previous record is better than this bit of nonsense.

  • Mike Worcester

    Maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way, but if one municipality raises a minimum age to purchase an item, and it’s surrounded by other municipalities that will use the current state-wide age, will it accomplish the likely desired goal?

    Is this an issue better left to the legislature (risky gambit, I know) to raise the age state-wide rather than a city here, a county there?

    • Al

      Someone has to start. Could be a way for a city to dip their toes in, while other cities wait to see what happens.

  • Angry Jonny

    A side argument emerges along the lines of “if adults can’t drink or smoke until they’re 21, but they can enlist in the armed forces to fight and die in a foreign war, something’s wrong”. Don’t inhale carcinogens or quaff depressants until 21 years of age, but go right ahead and take a bullet the day you can legally vote. I’m all for consistency, so let’s go across the board with it. Either 21 or 18 for all of it. Preferably 21. We don’t need to send our kids to their deaths so quickly.

    • Kassie

      The problem is, that by 21 those kids know better than to enlist. 18 year olds are stupid enough to join up.

      • MrE85

        I was 23 when I enlisted. I was a smoker, too.

        • Tim

          Indeed. Most people I’ve known who’ve enlisted didn’t do so right out of high school. And they weren’t “stupid”.

        • rallysocks

          My dad was 16. Didn’t smoke until he joined the Army and was given cigs with his rations.

  • Al

    Emerging research shows that raising the age to 21 can reduce smoking rates for kids under 18: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4902755/

    So if we’re encouraging government to follow science and evidence, we can’t fault Edina for trying this.

  • Anna

    I can hear it now. “Smokers are being discriminated against! Smokers rise up and protest!”

    There is still one place that doesn’t care if you smoke and that is gaming casinos. I suppose with the high levels of diabetes and alcoholism in the Native American population, banning smoking is not high on their priority list.

    But then again, you have the whole “second hand smoke” issue as well. Because I was exposed to my father’s cigarettes growing up, I have an increased risk of developing lung cancer.

    It is a well known fact that children of smokers tend to grow up to be smokers. If you want to stop kids from smoking, you have to start with the parents first.

    My assignment for a nursing school project was a presentation about the dangers of smoking to a high school science class. I didn’t use the scare tactic approach. I used the monetary approach including employer opinion of interviewees who are smokers.

    When the kids found out how many gallons of gas they could buy and Michael Jordan sneakers, I started getting their attention.

    What really got their attention was my casual survey of major employers in the local area. 95% of them said they would choose a non-smoker applicant over an applicant who smoked. The loss of productivity due to “smoke” breaks was another deciding factor.

    The hue and cry over the perceived discrimination was quite telling. And this was when a pack of cigarettes was still about $3.00 a pack.

    Raising the legal age for smoking is a start but more has to be done.

    • MrE85

      It’s just a small room in back of a convenience store, but there is a small totally smoke free gaming space at Prairie’s Edge Casino, south of Granite Falls, MN.
      It’s a shame a sacred herb has become a health risk for so many Native Americans, who have the highest smoking rates of any ethnic group.

      • Anna

        Bear in mind that Native Americans were the original “smokers” and introduced tobacco to Europe around the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

        Centuries ago it did have a sacred meaning and was used as a negotiating tool as in the peace pipe. It wasn’t smoked for recreation.

        Alcohol was unknown to the Native Americans until we Europeans introduced them to it in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s had devastating consequences ever since.

        We took their tribal lands but I think the Native Americans have had the last laugh.

        Smoking is one of the hardest addictive habits to kick and while your health improves when you quit, it has lasting effects that don’t show up for decades.

        Caveat emptor.

        • jon

          If we call the exchange of alcohol and tobacco a wash, and do the same for smallpox vs polio… the exchange of bullets probably still leaves europeans a head in the game of who can kill each other faster…. though no one should be left laughing at the end of that game.

          • Anna

            Well said. Well said.

    • Kassie

      Drive though Little Earth and you will see the “Keep Tobacco Sacred” signs prominently displayed. Just like everyone else, Native Americans do care about their population and are doing things to reduce smoking.

    • rallysocks

      Check out smokefreecasinos.org There’s initiatives going on and in my area, there are 3 smoke free casinos.

      • MrE85

        If it’s a nonsmoking area in a building full of secondhand smoke, that really doesn’t meet our standard of “smoke free.”

        • rallysocks

          Yes, I’m aware of that.

      • rallysocks

        I must amend this–double checking on that claim, I see the tribal casinos aren’t smoke free. Going back in the archives of my brain, when one of them expanded, the new part was smoke free. They must have been considering going smoke free or were for awhile. One of the few times we ever go, I recall being surprised and unhappy (as a smoker at the time) that there was no smoking.

  • Al

    “This is in a city that still runs its own liquor stores. Check out the number of DWI’s in the latest Edina crime report.”

    Yes, but a lot of state funding (Statewide Health Improvement Partnership) goes toward tobacco cessation, and not toward alcohol. So it’s not an either-or, it’s a “we have funding for this, so let’s do it.”

  • Gary F

    8 bucks a pack. Just how do kids afford to smoke these days? How do adults afford to smoke these days.

    • Kassie

      I took a quit smoking class here at work just before the most recent tax jump on cigarettes. Every person in the class stated they were there because they didn’t want to give money to the Vikings, where the tax was going. I was the only one to successfully quit.

    • Mike Worcester

      I wonder the exact same question; I quit when it got to $2.50/pack And that was nearly twenty years ago.

  • rallysocks

    I’m lucky in that I was able to quit cold turkey. So was my dad, but he still died from cancer at age 60–started as lung cancer, returned twice more–the third time it was in his spinal fluid before it was detected. I know smoking is stupid and harmful and it eats up a major part of your budget.

    But, the vibe on this thread is pretty disheartening. Mr. Sox still smokes, he knows what we all know about smoking and feels incredibly guilty about the costs. Is Mr. Sox stupid? No. Is Mr. Sox weak willed? No. Is smoking something that brings Mr. Sox small comfort as he is struggling with some mental/medical issues? Yes. Do I want Mr. Sox to quit? YES. Do I mock Mr. Sox or make him feel shameful because he is addicted to tobacco? NO.

    At my workplace, smokers are made to feel inferior or ashamed for smoking. We have a really good cessation program, but some do not want to do it because of the Judgey McJudgersons that are their co-workers.

    I rue the day I started smoking. I’m very proud that I quit. But I still worry that it will come back to haunt me. Smoking causes myriad problems that smokers and reformed smokers are very well aware of. Let’s have a bit more empathy.

    • Kassie

      People with mental health issues often smoke. 44% of all smokers have mental or chemical health issues. Anyone who has smoked knows how soothing a cigarette can be when things get stressful. When Hennepin County went smoke free for all their properties, they exempted the mental health ward of the hospital.

      • rallysocks

        It’s interesting how stress relief is one of the biggest reasons smokers claim they smoke, but science says cigarettes directly raise your blood pressure. Even now, in a stressful situation, I crave a cigarette–but it soon goes away. Although eating my emotions is the bugaboo I’m tackling now.

        • Kassie

          For me, it was being able to take a second for myself. At work I could get up, go downstairs, go outside, smoke, clear my head, then come back in. It lets you get out of the situation you are in and take a break. I do miss it. I liked smoking a lot. I hated having a cough all the time and smelling though. And there is a lot of judgement. And now I judge, but mostly it is just wondering how people keep smoking. The peer pressure as an adult to not smoke is high.

          • rallysocks

            Ahhhh, yes…the alone time! At my second job, I loved going out to the garage after my shift with a martini and a smoke, just to decompress a bit.

            I certainly don’t run as many *errands* as I used to–smoking in the car (sans non-smoking passengers) was the hardest habit to break.

            I also liked it, but yes the cough. Also, with a special needs kid, I really want to be around for her as long as possible. It just seemed wrong to willingly bring and early death on myself.

          • Al

            This is EXACTLY what husband misses about smoking. The break, the time for yourself to gather your thoughts throughout the day. Taking a chewing gum break isn’t the same.

  • lindblomeagles

    While I remain skeptical of the ban’s impact on tweens and teens, our nation’s inability to get on the same page has caused this latest response. Consider this Bob, at 18 you can buy addictive nicotine. But, for most of the same reasons, you have to wait until you’re 21 to buy alcohol. Even less rational, you can smoke and drink before you’re able to rent a car (25 years old, and not a day short of that). Students successfully got their way to keep their college grades and activities secretive from their parents, but Obama Care made sure adults could keep their young adults on their insurance plans until age 26. Well golly gee! By the time junior and sister become 26, they might ALREADY be alcoholics, have driven drunk in a rental car on the streets of Edina that caused damage to a nearby college, with cancer infested lungs from smoking, while mom and dad’s insurance premiums have tripled in the process. None of this plays.

  • Bob Sinclair

    //”Don’t hold your breath”
    I saw what you did there.