The Minnesota House DFL Caucus accused JUUL and other e-cigarette companies of targeting kids and communities of color at a Monday press conference where a number of new policy initiatives were announced, including a proposal to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21.
State Reps. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan), Alice Mann (DFL-Lakeville), Heather Edelson (DFL-Edina), and Rena Moran (DFL-St.Paul) all spoke at Monday’s press conference to announce a “comprehensive agenda to stop the epidemic of youth vaping in Minnesota.”
“We have watched as tobacco companies, e-cigarette companies like JUUL, target populations in Minnesota—target communities of color, target our kids—all to market a new way of becoming addicted to nicotine through vaping,” Halverson said at the news conference. “What’s interesting is that, those of us who have been around tobacco for a while, we saw what they were doing. We saw that they were using the same old tried-and-true tricks to hook kids in particular on e-cigarettes.”
She criticized e-cigarette companies for their “bogus health claims,” namely that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking.
“Make no mistake. These are not quit-smoking devices,” Halverson claimed. “Because of their uncanny ability to get these addictive products into the hands of kids, we are seeing an epidemic among the youth in Minnesota.”
She said e-cigarette companies have used “flavors and high-tech marketing” to deliberately hook a new generation of smokers.
“We know they’re dangerous. People across the country and Minnesota are dying using these products,” she continued.
The House DFL Caucus plans to introduce several vaping-related bills during the next legislative session, including one that would raise the legal sales age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21 and another that would prohibit the sales of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol-flavored products.
“Menthol is the easiest way to start smoking and one of the hardest ways to quit,” Halverson suggested. “And so we are not making an exception for menthol tobacco use or mint-flavored JUUL products. These will be included in the vaping flavor ban that I’m going to be introducing.”
The DFL also plans to prohibit online sales of all tobacco products and raise taxes on cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
“The surge in vaping use among young people has undone years of progress in falling cigarette smoking rates,” Mann said. “Young people are unknowingly causing long-term damage to their health and well-being, and as both a doctor and a legislator, I feel compelled to act. That’s why we’re introducing legislation to combat this crisis and hold Big Tobacco accountable.”
They also plan to create an “office of youth prevention and protection,” launch a state education campaign on the risks of vaping, and expand funding for “cessation resources.”
“The harmful effects of smoking, vaping, and other tobacco use among young people are well documented, as are the tobacco companies’ coordinated efforts to target them,” Moran said. “Youth of color have been especially coveted by Big Tobacco and through flavored products, they’re working to addict a new generation. After years of progress in reducing youth smoking, we’re committed to redoubling these efforts to ensure all kids can be healthy as they grow and develop into young adults.”
Gov. Tim Walz seems to support many of the initiatives and is conducting listening sessions at high schools across the state to discuss vaping, The Minnesota Sun previously reported.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Image “MN Rep. Laurie Halverson” by MN DFL.