Minnesota’s Tobacco 21 Law: FAQs

The legal age for purchasing and consuming tobacco products in Minnesota is now 21. This includes vaping products and e-cigarettes. The Tobacco 21 law in Minnesota reflects the larger change that has taken place at the federal level and in other states throughout the country. This legislation aims to keep dangerous products away from schools and younger people.

Why Did Minnesota Raise the Smoking Age?

In December 2019, President Trump signed legislation raising the federal minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. This led to individual states gradually raising their minimum tobacco age to comply with the federal law. Minnesota’s Tobacco 21, which passed in May and was signed by Gov. Tim Walz, indicates a crucial step towards preventing young people from becoming addicted to tobacco products. The law officially took effect on Aug. 1, 2020, and Minnesota was the 25th state to adopt Tobacco 21.

How Does This Law Affect Vaping & E-Cigarettes?

The push to change the age requirement for tobacco at the federal and state levels moved to the forefront over the last few years as increasing numbers of younger adults became addicted to electronic nicotine devices. For years, the use of tobacco among people younger than 18 had continued to decrease, but the growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping devices started to reverse the trend.

In 2019, there was a significant outbreak of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI). This sounded the alarm in communities around the country. While cases of EVALI were eventually traced back to vitamin E acetate used in electronic vaping devices, this outbreak revealed a troubling pattern of tobacco addiction. This trend was all-too-familiar for those in the healthcare industry who had observed rising tobacco addiction among young people for much of the twentieth century.

What Tobacco Products are Covered by the Law?

Minnesota’s Tobacco 21 law applies to all tobacco, tobacco-related products, electronic delivery tobacco devices, or any device that delivers nicotine or lobelia. Additionally, this law updated the definitions of electronic delivery devices to include both natural and synthetic formulations of nicotine or other similar substances.

What are the Penalties for People Under 21?

Tobacco 21 does place penalties on retailers if they are caught selling tobacco products to those under the age of 21. This includes a $300 penalty for first offenses and increasing penalties for subsequent offenses.

However, the law does not apply criminal penalties to those who are under the age of 21 caught using tobacco products. Some state legislators argued that those under the age of 21 caught using tobacco should be punished similarly to the under-21 alcohol laws in the state. However, an effort to add these penalties to the law was rejected.

According to Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, “The reality is, they don’t need to have a criminal record because of this. We can say, ‘Let’s as a community empower our local jurisdictions to address the issue.’”