Minnesota legislators made a wise move passing the Tobacco Modernization and Compliance Act of 2010. This new law is a great example of how government should work: It anticipated a likely problem in the next few years and acted to preempt a potential public health crisis.
The issue? New products developed by the tobacco industry that make their wares more attractive and noticeably more kid-friendly. Just take a look at this picture, provided by ClearWay Minnesota – it makes a deadly tobacco product look like a breath mint.
As brand new products, they would have fallen into a gray area of regulation, likely making their sale to minors legal. The Tobacco Modernization Act’s passage clamps that loophole.
Jeanne Weigum of the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota says Big Tobacco has begun rolling out these new products in a few select markets around the country. New lines include Camel sticks, orbs and strips. With their candy-like wrappers, an uninformed, underage consumer can mistake these for toothpicks, mints, and Listerine-like breath strips, yet all three include both nicotine and tobacco.
Another product covered by the new law is E-cigarettes, electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine but no tobacco and release water vapor. Weigum’s not exactly sure of every ingredient in E-cigarettes, but said: “We do know they have glycol,” which is antifreeze.
The Association of Non-Smokers-Minnesota and others, including BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota, ClearWay Minnesota, the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Society began raising public awareness and advocating for an update to Minnesota’s tobacco laws.
That effort culminated in the passage of the Tobacco Modernization Act, which will take effect August 1 of this year. The act prepares Minnesota in case any of these kid-friendly looking products ever come to our state. They would be taxed as tobacco products and required to be kept behind the counter. This might not be enough to hold off Big Tobacco from Minnesota consumers, but it will make it more difficult for kids to get their hands on these products.
Minnesota’s legislature acted with foresight in passing this important public health measure, showcasing government at its finest. Minnesotans have a right to be proud of a legislature that anticipates problems and takes a proactive approach to preempt them before they balloon out of control.