State lawmakers consider ways to prevent rise of teen vaping

Updated: October 29, 2019 12:44 PM

Some Minnesota lawmakers are once again pushing to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21.


More than 100 communities across the state have already passed similar ordinances.

It comes as e-cigarette use and vaping-related injuries and deaths continue to rise across the country and here in Minnesota.

State Sen. Carla Nelson introduced the "T-21" bill last year. It will go back to committee in the upcoming session. The bill aims to raise the legal age to buy tobacco and related products to 21 in Minnesota.

E-cigarette use among Minnesota students on the rise

During a news conference Monday, Nelson referenced a new statewide survey that found one in four high school juniors have vaped in the past month.

"It is a public health issue. It is a crisis among our teens, so it is going to take all hands on deck," Nelson said.

She said T-21 has bipartisan support in both the Minnesota House and Senate. She was joined by other lawmakers, who slammed e-cigarette companies for marketing kid-friendly flavors and tricking teens into thinking vaping is a healthier alternative to traditional nicotine products.

Lawmakers also pushed for another bill, the "Vaping Prevention and Awareness Act" to educate kids about the dangers of vaping through school health curriculums.

"It's no longer just lawmakers, it's our students saying, 'My lungs hurt. I didn't know,'" said Rep. Heather Edelson. "We've allowed companies to target them saying it's better than smoking. Not only adults are dying but our kids are getting sick."

Walz to visit schools to better understand e-cig use among Minnesota youth

Democratic lawmakers in the House will also introduce a "comprehensive plan" to prevent youth tobacco use through cigarettes or vaping.

Rep. Laurie Halverson says it won't be easy to combat all the marketing vaping companies did to portray vaping as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.

"Make no mistake these are not quit-smoking devices," she said. "In fact, the e-cigarette companies took a stand to say they do not want to be regulated as a quit-smoking device because you'd have to prove efficacy, you'd have to prove safety."

One student at her news conference demonstrated a "vaping hoodie" that can be used to vape through the sweatshirt drawstrings.

Gov. Tim Walz recently said he is trying to figure out what may be most effective. He held roundtables with students across the state last week.

Walz heard from some teens who said they became addicted to vaping and that it took them by surprise.

"I wish I would've known more about actually the effects it has on people and how hard it is to quit and that it's not something you can decide to stop one day," Claire Hering, a Hopkins High School student, said.

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