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Brooklyn Center, Otter Tail Co. raise tobacco sales age to 21

 – On Tuesday, both Brooklyn Center and Otter Tail County voted to raise the tobacco sales age to 21.

This marks Minnesota’s 16th and 17th local governments to pass the change, according to a news release.

Otter Tail County is the first Minnesota county to adopt Tobacco 21. Brooklyn Center joins Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Shoreview, Falcon Heights, Minneapolis, St. Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale and Hermantown as Minnesota’s first Tobacco 21 cities.

Brooklyn Center also passed a policy that restricts the sale of e-cigarettes to adult-only tobacco stores. The final vote was unanimous and the policy is set to start on Dec. 21.

The final vote in Otter Tail County was unanimous, and the policy is set to start in January.

Senators override Tobacco 21 veto, send to House

Lawmakers in the House could soon decide to raise the age limit for buying tobacco products to 21 despite a veto from the governor.

The Senate approved the bill Wednesday with enough votes to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto. It goes to the House next.

The measure passed both chambers in the spring, Rauner vetoed it.

The governor said that a Tobacco 21 law would just send smokers elsewhere to buy tobacco products rather than reducing the number of people who use it.

“Raising the age people can purchase tobacco products will push residents to buy tobacco products from non-licensed vendors or in neighboring states,” the governor wrote in his veto message.

Proponents of the measure said tobacco contains toxic chemicals and known carcinogens. They say it leads to increased public health costs.

State Sen. Dan McConchie opposed the override attempt. He said 18-year-olds already have adult responsibilities.

“You can marry,” he said. “You can have children that you’re financially responsible for. You can buy property. You can borrow money that you can’t afford to pay back. You can even decide who should be governor of the state of Illinois or should be president of the United States but you are not wise enough to be able to determine whether or not to buy and use this particular product.”

Other opponents had said the measure is nonsensical given that 18-year-olds can volunteer to serve and die for their country in the military.

State Sen. Michael Hastings, a veteran himself, dismissed that notion. He said a four-star general told him the military isn’t meeting its recruitment goals and this will help.

“The senior-most military member in our entire country last week stated to me that obesity and health-related issues are one of the No. 1 reasons why we are not able to meet the recruiting mission to the United States Army”

Despite objections, the measure passed with enough votes to override the governor’s veto. It now heads to the House. Veto session runs through the end of the month.

Hermantown under-21 tobacco sales ban approved

In a 5-0 vote, the Hermantown City Council voted on Monday to ban tobacco sales — including vaping devices — to those under 21 within city limits.

It makes Hermantown the 15th city in Minnesota — but the first in the northern part of the state — to pass a so-called T21 ordinance.

“I don’t think we can wait for the state to do something,” Councilor Kristi Schmidt said, in seeming response to a plea from Lake Effect Vapor owner Brian Annis that the city defer a decision to await action by the Minnesota Legislature.

“The state actually wants to see communities put a stake in the ground, if you will, and show how important it is,” Schmidt said.

Following the meeting, Annis said the ordinance wouldn’t change his business plans.

Annis was one of six people who spoke against the ordinance during an hourlong public hearing.

But they were outnumbered almost 3 to 1 by speakers favoring passage, including health professionals, parents and high school and middle school students.

Among them was Lauryn Biondi, a 14-year-old eighth-grader at Hermantown Middle School, who stood at the podium flanked by four of her classmates, all wearing navy blue “Hawks for Health Tobacco 21” T-shirts.

“I have seen several incidents in my school regarding vaping, and it is only November of my eighth-grade year,” Biondi said. “In my opinion, this shouldn’t have to be a problem.”

If 21 were the minimum age to buy the products, they would be less likely to get into the hands of her classmates, Biondi told the council.

Minnesota kids are being tricked (and addicted) by flavored tobacco products

Minneapolis (10/30/18) – This Halloween, Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation is reminding parents, teachers and community leaders that many tobacco products aimed at youth closely resemble popular Halloween candies. The tobacco industry blatantly continues to use kid-friendly menthol, candy and fruit flavors to attract the next generation of smokers. These products include wild cherry cigars, Bubble Gang watermelon e-liquid, peach cigarillos, and Mint JUULpods – to name a few.

“The tobacco industry has not stopped their tricks to hook young tobacco users on their addictive and deadly products,” said Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs at ClearWay MinnesotaSM and Co-Chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. “Big tobacco knows that 95 percent of addicted smokers start before age 21 and that’s why we continue to see thousands of flavored nicotine and tobacco products flood our schools, stores and homes. In the face of a youth nicotine addiction epidemic, lawmakers must do more to protect our kids.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2009 banned the use of most flavoring agents, except menthol, in cigarettes. However, that ban does not include other tobacco products such as little cigars and cigarillos, or emerging products like e-cigarettes. Internal documents from the tobacco industry show that tobacco companies know that young people are attracted to fruit, candy and alcohol flavors in tobacco products. Research also has found that most kids start smoking by using flavored tobacco products.

Flavored tobacco products have helped contribute to the first increase in youth tobacco use in 17 years in Minnesota. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that more than 60 percent of youth tobacco users reported using flavored products in the past 30 days, and almost 40 percent of Minnesota high-school students have tried e-cigarettes, which come in candy and other kid-friendly flavors.

Flavored products mask the harshness of tobacco, but are just as addictive and dangerous as other products. Nicotine damages the developing adolescent brain whether it’s delivered in a cigarette, cigarillo, e-cigarette or other tobacco product.

Federal and state health officials are sounding the alarm on rising rates of youth nicotine and tobacco addiction. In a recent health advisory, the Minnesota Department of Health called youth nicotine addiction a major health concern because nicotine harms the developing adolescent brain and primes youth for addiction to cigarettes and other substances. Separately, the FDA recently said youth e-cigarette use is an epidemic and the agency is considering actions against e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers.

The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that youth tobacco use has risen for the first time in 17 years in Minnesota. The increase is due to a sharp rise in e-cigarette use and by the tobacco industry’s marketing, including kid-friendly flavors, prolific advertising, easy access and stealthy new products.

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Trick or Treat! Don’t Be Fooled by Industry Support of Tobacco 21

DUBLIN, OhioNov. 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — On Halloween the FDA issued a statement describing their ongoing conversations with the tobacco industry occurring as a result of the recent epidemic in youth use of electronic cigarettes.  Commissioner Scott Gottlieb reported that some tobacco manufacturers support “raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 years of age.”

We cannot be fooled by their words: the industry supports criminal sanctions on youth who fall prey to their predatory marketing tactics and addictive products, attached to legal provisions that shield retailers who profit from the sales of these deadly products.  The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and Tobacco 21 advocate for raising the minimum legal sales age of all nicotine and tobacco products to 21, coupled with reliable and robust enforcement that holds the industry and retailers responsible.

The tobacco industry’s statements to the FDA of their support for a policy that raises the access for tobacco products is a cynical distraction. The industry knows the FDA does not have the regulatory authority to raise the age to 21, but the FDA can and must respond to this epidemic through policy action within its regulatory authority.  This includes a ban on candy flavors, tight restriction of high dose nicotine salts and limits to where these products may be sold.

History has made clear that voluntary action by tobacco manufacturers always fails. The tobacco industry’s claims of cooperation can never be a substitute for effective regulation to protect public health and keep kids from lifelong nicotine addiction.

We call on the FDA to immediately implement the following:

A Complete Assessment of the Teen Nicotine Addiction Epidemic

  • The FDA and CDC must expedite the release of the 2018 Youth Tobacco Survey, completed 5 months ago, that demonstrates an epidemic surge in teen addiction.
  • The FDA and CDC must require robust, standardized annual surveys of youth and adult nicotine and tobacco use in all states and major metropolitan areas precedent to the release of federal monies for prevention. These studies must address perception and use of individual brands.

Require Investigational New Drug Applications and Restrict Nicotine Salts

  • Juul and other manufacturers have produced novel and patented drug formulations including nicotine benzoate and other nicotine salts in unique carrier solutions that deliver high dosages of addictive nicotine to the pulmonary and central nervous system of teen users. These salts reduce the usual irritant sensation of nicotine to the mouth and throat, thus promoting increased depth of inhalation and frequency.
  • The FDA must insist on required investigational new drug applications (IND) to be submitted to the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).
  • Because these drugs are already in widespread use and their abrupt elimination might cause distress in adult users, an interim solution in advance of required CDER evaluation would be to remove them to “behind the counter,” sign-out security in pharmacies, similar to the treatment of pseudoephedrine. Clearly, nicotine salts are of equal or greater risk to public health. Suggestions by the FDA to restrict these product sales to newly-hatched and unregulated “vapor shops” as a means of public health protection is an egregious error that flies in the face of common sense.

Ban Characterizing Flavors

  • There is overwhelming evidence that adolescents are enticed into usage by candy, mint and other flavors, while there is no evidence that adult users committed to cessation of combustible tobacco require flavors to make that switch. Any small incentive for adult users is overwhelmed by the risk to teens.
  • All characterizing flavors should be immediately removed from products offered to the public. This is perhaps the most important step the FDA can take immediately to stem this tsunami of teen nicotine addiction.

Rob Crane, MD