Starting life hooked on tobacco is an alarming prospect that should concern us all.

I am the health coordinator for a local public health agency and I urge the Mankato City Council to vote in favor of raising the tobacco age from 18 to 21.

We need to act now. For the first time in 17 years, tobacco use has increased among young people in Minnesota, with 26 percent of high school students using some form of tobacco. One in five high school students use e-cigarettes — a nearly 50 percent increase since 2014.

One of my friends, a dental hygienist, sees mouth damage among many of her middle-school and high-school student clients who use e-cigarettes. She sees everything from inflamed and sore gums as well as burns and tooth decay.

Yet, many young people believe e-cigarettes are safe, which is far from true. Today’s e-cigarettes can deliver high levels of nicotine, with appealing flavors that make it easy to start and hard to quit.

Nationwide and statewide, we are facing what the U.S. Surgeon General has called an epidemic of youth nicotine addiction, driven largely by the popularity of e-cigarettes.

Already, more than 450 cities and counties in 27 states have passed Tobacco 21, including 31 Minnesota communities. Mankato should join them in taking this bold step.

Almost 95 percent of addicted adult smokers start before age 21. As a community member and the mother of an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old, I am calling on the Mankato City Council to pass Tobacco 21 and help create a smoke-free generation.

Megan Kirby

Mankato

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