City of Braham raises  tobacco sales age to 21

The surge in communities working to protect youth from the harms of tobacco continued on Tuesday, Sept. 3, as Braham became the latest city to pass a Tobacco 21 ordinance. The Braham city council unanimously voted in favor of Tobacco 21, making it the 42nd community in Minnesota to do so.

The ordinance change was brought before the council following Isanti County’s enacting of T21, which took effect on June 1. The county’s ordinance, however, wasn’t automatically applied to businesses within the Braham city limits since the city issues their own tobacco sales licenses. 

The county could have overridden the city using the Minnesota Local Public Health Act, however that would have complicated enforcement within the city of Braham. One of the two businesses that has been issued a license is within Braham city limits, however it is technically in Kanabec County, meaning Isanti County doesn’t have jurisdiction over it. 

The city of Cambridge, who also issues their own tobacco sales licenses, opted to not raise the minimum age to 21 last June. The city of Isanti doesn’t issue their own licenses, so they were automatically included in the county’s new ordinance.

“I would like to commend the Braham city council on taking a proactive and preventative approach to protecting youth,” said Tony Buttacavoli, Isanti County public health director. “The tobacco industry changes its products and marketing to find new users (kids) to replace old ones – the introduction of e-cigarettes and vaping products is a prime example. We as parents, professionals and the community at large, need to evolve as well to protect our youth. T21 is a proven and effective measure to do that.”

Youth e-cigarette use has increased nearly 50% in the past three years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Nearly one in five Minnesota High School students currently uses e-cigarettes, according to the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. Approximately 95% of current adult smokers started before they turned 21. If youth don’t start smoking before the age of 21, they likely never will.

“Nicotine is not only addictive, but is also very harmful to the developing adolescent brain,” said Jenae Hicks, a health educator with Isanti County Public Health, “specifically harming the parts of the brain that control learning, mood, attention and impulse control identified by the Center for Disease Control Prevention (CDC). The readily available and popular e-cigarettes like JUUL, Blu, VUSE and Suorin are easily accessible to our youth and contain high levels of nicotine. I am very pleased that Braham city council has taken such a valuable step to protect the children in our community from a lifelong battle of nicotine addiction.” 

Besides Braham, the 41 other Minnesota communities to have taken this step include: the cities of Edina, St. Louis Park, Bloomington, Plymouth, North Mankato, Falcon Heights, Shoreview, Minneapolis, Saint Peter, Richfield, Roseville, Minnetonka, Excelsior, Lauderdale, Hermantown, Brooklyn Center, Mendota Heights, Eden Prairie, Waseca, Duluth, North Oaks, Bemidji, Robbinsdale, Albert Lea, Arden Hills, Austin, Little Canada, Lilydale, Mankato, New Brighton, Byron and Forest Lake, along with Otter Tail, Pope, Beltrami, Isanti, Olmsted, Wilkin, Stevens, Hennepin and Benton counties.

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