Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation urged Minnesota lawmakers to follow the lead of Massachusetts and prohibit flavored tobacco sales in the state.

The Massachusetts measure earned overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law Nov. 27 by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 60 organizations that share a common goal of reducing youth smoking and ending tobacco’s harm for good, supports the prohibition of all flavored tobacco products because flavored tobacco products appeal to kids and are driving the youth nicotine epidemic. In particular, menthol tobacco products have been marketed toward African-Americans, LGBTQ, youth and other priority populations. As part of a comprehensive policy approach, the coalition also urged Minnesota to join Massachusetts and the 17 other states that have passed Tobacco 21 policies.

“Our kids are facing a nicotine epidemic and states must take the lead in protecting them from lifetime addiction,” said Molly Moilanen, Vice President at ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Minnesota has long been a leader in putting our health ahead of tobacco industry profits – and now is our time to lead again in combating this health crisis. Clearing Minnesota’s shelves of flavored tobacco products and raising the tobacco age to 21 are important steps to reverse the youth tobacco crisis and reduce addiction.”

In the absence of federal action, states across the nation are looking for ways to combat youth nicotine use. In September, President Trump announced the federal government would clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes but now seems to be walking back that promise. In a recent meeting with health leaders and the tobacco industry, the president signaled that states should lead on prevention policies.

Tobacco use puts youth at risk for health problems and a lifetime of addiction. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry continues to lure kids into addiction through easy access, kid-friendly flavors and aggressive marketing. The 2019 Minnesota Student Survey found that 26 percent of Minnesota 11th-graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past month. Eleven percent of eighth-graders said they use e-cigarettes regularly, which is nearly double the 2016 rate.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation encourages local and state lawmakers to pass policies that prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, without exemptions. Ending the sale of all flavored products will address tobacco addiction among youth and priority populations. In Minnesota, 10 communities restrict where all flavored tobacco products can be sold, four of which prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products altogether.

Raising the tobacco age to 21 statewide will also reduce tobacco use and save lives. Yesterday, Cook County became the 55th Minnesota community to raise their tobacco age to 21. Tobacco 21 now covers nearly 40 percent of the state population.

Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation encourages lawmakers to take a multi-layered approach to the youth nicotine addiction crisis and pass bold policy measures to counter Big Tobacco’s aggressive marketing toward our kids. In the 2020 legislative session, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation will advocate for a statewide Tobacco 21 policy, prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, investing in youth prevention and increasing tobacco prices.

“Minnesota kids can’t wait on the federal government to reverse this epidemic,” Moilanen added. “Let’s pass Tobacco 21, prohibit flavored tobacco products and invest in youth prevention to show Minnesota is serious about the health of our kids.”

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