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Leading the way: Tobacco 21

The cities of Edina and Richfield have contracted with the City of Bloomington since 1977 in order to receive public health services at the local level within their respective communities. The Public Health Alliance of Bloomington, Edina, and Richfield allows each city to have complete autonomy, yet work collaboratively toward promoting, protecting, and improving the overall health of these communities.

Historically, when one of the cities within the alliance implements a healthy policy or change, the other two cities aren’t far behind in following suit. Tobacco 21 (T-21) policy work is no exception and serves as a great example of how each city impacts the health of its stakeholders and takes action to make positive change.

T-21 increases the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21. The 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that 1 in 4 students use tobacco-related products. Research shows that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 would limit tobacco access and keep Minnesota's youth from ever starting (Minnesota Department of Health).


Edina just so happened to be the first in the state to raise the legal age for tobacco purchase. The Community Health Commission considered the T-21 policy after Caleb Schultz, MD, MPH presented on the topic to them and subsequently to City Council. Unanimously, Edina City Council voted to pass the resolution that went into effect July 1. Schultz said council members reported being inundated with emails and phone calls with support of T-21 prior to the vote and said that after passage of T-21 there has been little opposition or negative reaction within Edina.

Bonnie Paulsen, Administrator for the Public Health Division at the City of Bloomington said it is policies like these that not only save lives, but make an impact in changing the health of these populations. Bloomington was not far behind Edina's efforts in also raising the legal purchase age of tobacco to 21. Bloomington City Council voted unanimously in November to pass the new ordinance which:

  • Prohibits the sale of tobacco-related products including electronic delivery devices, to persons under 21 years of age.
  • Requires tobacco retailers to check ID of customers under 30 years of age.
  • Requires tobacco retailers to train their employees on the legal requirements to sell tobacco-related products.

The city of Richfield is still in discussion on T-21 and will be for the better half of 2018. Jennifer Anderson, Support Services Supervisor said the Richfield Advisory Board of Health has not only been looking at what other cities have implemented but also what their experiences have been in order to develop a T-21 policy that works for Richfield.  

When it comes to the health of these overall communities, it is the collaboration within the alliance that creates this domino effect for policy change in order to move forward toward a healthier future.