Minnesota must raise smoking age to 21 to save lives, protect kids

Saint Paul, Minn — Today, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota is calling on Governor Dayton and state legislators to follow California’s lead and pass vital legislation that will protect kids and save thousands of lives by raising the minimum age to buy tobacco.

“California legislators overcame heavy-handed lobbying and threats from the tobacco industry, passing Tobacco 21 legislation because they recognized their duty to protect families in their state.  Don’t the children of Minnesota deserve the same chance to grow up addiction-free?” said Jamie Gulley, President of the SEIU Minnesota State Council. 

Last week, the California State Assembly passed SB 7 X2 by State Senator Ed Hernandez that will raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. California will now join Hawaii as the second state to make this important change.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of adult tobacco users started before they were 21 years old. Of those kids who become regular smokers, 1 in 3 will die from tobacco-related diseases.

Even tobacco industry researchers acknowledge that addiction-prone adolescents are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to become lifelong smokers, the reason Big Tobacco vehemently fought the Tobacco 21 legislation in California.

“Saving lives by keeping tobacco out of teens’ hands is a legacy that Minnesota leaders can embrace by fighting the number one cause of preventable death in our state.”


SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in your homes, hospitals, public schools, nursing homes, hotels, universities and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings, and who make and distribute products used by Minnesotans every day. The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns. By building the political involvement of the approximately 53,000 people SEIU represents throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota and Workers United.

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