Just about two years ago, city leaders in Mankato began discussing the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21-years-old, and on Monday night they finally achieved that goal.
The Mankato City Council unanimously approved an ordinance on Monday night that will finally see the city join more than 30 other municipalities in signing on to what is known as the Tobacco 21 movement. The ordinance will go into effect 30 days following its publication in the Mankato Free Press, which should happen within the next week, meaning a person will need to be 21 to purchase tobacco in the city by the end of June.
The city’s previous mayor, Eric Anderson, had been an outspoken increase of the proposal. In Feb. 2018, it appeared that the approval would finally pass, only to be defeated by a 4-3 vote, and in turn delaying North Mankato’s increase, as that city’s mayor directed staff not to publish the ordinance that had passed the week prior if Mankato didn’t approve its bill. North Mankato would eventually amend and pass its ordinance the following month.
Ultimately, newly elected leaders made the ordinance’s approval possible, as Anderson didn’t seek re-election and Najwa Massad won the most recent mayoral election. Additionally, former councilmember Trudy Kunkel didn’t run for re-election, opening the door for Jessica Hatanpa, another supporter of the bill. The other two members to oppose the ordinance last year—Dennis Dieken and Jenn Melby-Kelley—both changed their votes this time around.
In addition to the age increase, the city has eliminated the ability of customers to sample products in stores, including cigars in cigar lounges, an exemption to the state’s laws on smoking indoors, as well as instituted a requirement that all self-service tobacco sales be eliminated, such as going into a humidor and selecting a cigar without having to request it from a clerk. The ordinance does not make possession of tobacco products by a person between 18 and 20-years-old a crime.
The Minnesota Legislature is also considering a statewide increase.
Mankato is home to approximately 42,000 residents and is located 80 miles southwest of Minneapolis.