By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Both Republican and Democratic state leaders proposed sweeping new legislation Monday to limit sales of vaping and tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.

A state survey shows a sharp increase in youth vaping, at the same time the state reports 73 illnesses and three deaths related to e-cigarette use.

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Leaders of both parties are shocked by the severity of the illnesses, the deaths and a statewide survey that found more than one in four high school juniors admit to vaping regularly.

Republican Senator Carla Nelson wants a ban on sales to people under 21 and more education about vaping in schools.

“We have seen an explosion in youth vaping,” Nelson said. “JUUL, which represents 70% of the e-cigarette market in the U.S., delivers high nicotine in each JUUL pod — about the equal in 20 cigarettes.”

The learning curve is constantly evolving. One Sibley High Student, who is against vaping, showed how even a sweatshirt can be a vaping device.

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“A lot of students use it so they can vape through the draw strings, so the smoke can be easily dispersed,” he said.

Democrats at Monday’s news conference wanted more than an under-21 ban. They also want to ban all flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products, as well as all internet sales of tobacco and vaping products.

“It will be a heavy lift to get that done,” DFL Representative Laurie Halverson of Eagan said. “And to help people understand what the urgency is around this, so it will definitely be a challenge.”

It is not clear if there is support for all of these proposals, but there is bipartisan support for a ban on sales of all tobacco and e-cig products to anyone under 21.

At least 14 states have passed similar tobacco age restrictions.

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The Minnesota legislative session starts in early February.

Esme Murphy