U.S. officials report new vaping deaths, repeat warning

FILE - In this Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 file photo, a woman takes a puff from a cannabis vape pen in Los Angeles. On Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, U.S. health officials are again urging people to stop vaping until they figure out why some are coming down with serious breathing illnesses.

MOUNTAIN IRON — The T21 movement is not new. But with increasing attention on the dangers of alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, being used by teenagers, T21 is resurfacing.

Otherwise known as Tobacco 21, the national campaign launched in 1996 as an effort to reduce the number of teens smoking and using tobacco by raising the minimum legal age for tobacco and nicotine sales in the Untied States to 21.

States across the nation and cities throughout Minnesota have adopted T21, and the City of Mountain Iron is opening up a free T21 webinar to the public. It will be presented from 1 to 2 p.m. Oct. 21 on a big screen at the Mountain Iron Community Center.

With all the news on vaping deaths in the country and seizures and other neurological symptoms related to vaping e-cigarettes, Councilor Steve Skogman said at Monday’s city council meeting that he was ready to submit a proposal that Mountain Iron adopt T21.

When he learned of the webinar, he thought it would be beneficial for city leaders and the community to first be informed via the presentation.

The Minnesota Department of Health supports statewide efforts to raise the legal sale age to 21. And T21 has been considered at both the state and national levels, Skogman said.

However, he said the regulation is something the city “should look at rather than waiting for the state” to enact legislation.

States that have already approved T21 laws include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

According to information on the webinar, presented by the Mitchell Hamline Public Health Law Center, as of Sept. 10, 43 cities in Minnesota have raised the tobacco age to 21. Additionally, some have enacted local regulations limiting the sale of certain tobacco products.

Almost 95% of addicted adult smokers started smoking by age 21, according to the materials.

The webinar will provide background on the T21 movement at a national level and focus on what it means for Minnesota cities. It will discuss the trends, potential pitfalls and explore enforcement of T21 and other tobacco regulations.

The presentation will also address the impacts of e-cigarettes and flavored products and how they relate to tobacco-control regulations.

“This has to do with community heath,” Skogman said Monday.

“I agree,” said Mayor Gary Skalko. “We don’t want to have our heads in the sand.”

Councilor Joe Prebeg Jr. pointed out that if Mountain Iron adopts T21, teenagers will obtain products from other communities.

However, that would not be an option if other Iron Range cities also enact regulations, Skogman said.

The effort may have to “originate at a grassroots level,” with communities ratifying T21 one by one, Skalko said.

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