There’s smoke in the air at the state Capitol this spring as the Legislature grinds toward a May 20 adjournment.
Two measures that would protect our clean indoor air and health are up for debate. The Legislature should pass and Governor Walz should sign these actions.
The House overwhelming passed HF349 that expands the definition of smoking to ensure Minnesota’s smoke-free indoor-air law restricts the use of e-cigarettes in bars, restaurants and other places where smoking is prohibited. Under current law, the use of electronic delivery devices is prohibited at daycare premises, at health care facilities and clinics, in state and local government buildings, in buildings owned by a public college or university and in certain facilities licensed by the Department of Human Services or the Minnesota Department of Health.
The proposed expansion means carrying or using an activated electronic delivery is prohibited in the same locations as smoking under the Clean Indoor Air Act: in public places, at a public meeting, in a place of employment or in public transportation.
Reps. Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) and Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) voted in favor of the bill. A Senate version is awaiting committee action.
A second House bill (HF331) to raise the age to buy tobacco to 21 is moving through House committees. While the Legislature debates, cities and counties across Minnesota are taking independent action to raise the age limit to 21. This week, Olmsted County and Rochester voted to raise their tobacco sales age to 21, bringing the state’s total of cities and counties that have acted to 31. No Central Minnesota cities or counties have joined the effort.
Current state law requires a person to be age 18 or older to purchase tobacco, tobacco products, electronic delivery devices and nicotine and lobelia delivery products. This bill raises the age for persons to purchase these items to 21 or older.
The bill has been referred to the Health and Human Services Finance Division. In the Senate, the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee passed the companion bill (SF463) and referred it to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.
The dangers of e-cigarettes and youth smoking are backed up by research:
Nearly 95 percent of addicted adult smokers started before age 21.
In a health advisory, the Minnesota Department of Health called youth nicotine addiction a “major health concern” because the nicotine in e-cigarettes can prime youth for future addiction.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has stated that “e-cigarette use among youth has hit epidemic proportions.”
Almost 40 percent of high-school students have tried e-cigarettes, which come in kid-friendly flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy.
Nearly one in five high-school students reporting using e-cigarettes in the past month according to 1 2017 survey – a nearly 50 percent surge in high-school use from 13 percent in 2014.
Some 88 percent of high-school and middle-school students reported they have seen advertisements promoting e-cigarettes.
The FDA calls e-cigarette use by young people an “epidemic.” E-cigarette use has outpaced the search for treating nicotine dependence and there are no specific treatment guidelines for teens. The FDA is so concerned it is looking for ways to help kids quit. Experts say insurance-covered outpatient care and counseling doesn’t exist.
Young smokers and teens who use e-cigarettes could reverse years of healthful, anti-smoking behavior. Voters should insist Minnesota’s legislators act to pass these bills.