By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s most populated city wants the public’s input on raising the age limit to buy tobacco products.

Across the state, seven towns have passed ordinances to raise the age limit for buying cigarettes from 18 to 21 years old.

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Minneapolis has a chance to join that list and is hosting a public hearing Monday on the topic.

Proponents feel it will keep some teens from smoking and becoming addicted at an early age, but it could come at the expense of tobacco shops.

Inside Oxford Tobacco in Bloomington, customers can find all types of cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarette juice.

But what you likely won’t see are people at the register under 21 years old.

“It’s kind of like 20 percent of my customers, they disappear, I didn’t see them [again],” said Nabil Alaloul, owner.

Last December, Bloomington raised the age limit to buy tobacco products. Since then, Alaloul says he’s noticed a drop in sales specifically with vape products and cigar wraps, and feels his losses have turned into gains for shops in neighboring towns.

“The problem is [customers] move to Richfield. They just drive like 10 minutes to Richfield and they buy the other stuff,” he said.

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Alaloul said his cigarette and cigar sales have stayed relatively the same because most people who bought those products were already over 21 years old.

Edina was the first Minnesota town to make the change back in 2017, with smaller communities following suit. Minneapolis could be the next domino to fall.

“I think raising the age that people can buy tobacco products will probably prevent a lot of folks from getting addicted at a very early age,” said Joe Klein of Minneapolis. “And everybody benefits when you have a healthier population.”

Outside Infinite Vapor in Uptown, a sign on the window warns people about the possible age change. It also encourages people who started vaping before 21 years old to testify at Monday’s public hearing.

Alaloul would prefer the age limit be raised statewide. He said that would make the playing field fair for all businesses, but he’s doesn’t think it’ll stop teens from smoking all together.

“Anybody who want to smoke, [they] will find a way to buy cigarettes or e-cigarettes,” he said.

The hearing starts at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Minneapolis City Hall in room 317.

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In the past two weeks, both Falcon Heights and Shoreview raised the tobacco purchasing age limit to 21. They joined Bloomington, Edina, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, and North Mankato.

Jeff Wagner