An ordinance to raise the minimum purchasing age of tobacco to 21 passed at last night's North Mankato council meeting.

"Four cities in the metro have passed tobacco 21. North Mankato, now as of last night, demonstrated strong leadership and they're now the fifth city to pass this policy," Kelly McIntee, program manager for the American Lung Association said.

North Mankato Mayor Mark Dehen says passing the Tobacco 21 ordinance is the next step for smoking prevention among youth.

"We're really pleased that this ordinance passed. It is a question about health and children of our community and improving the quality of life in North Mankato," Dehen said.

The Tobacco 21 ordinance aims to protect young adults from developing a lifelong addiction.

"We know that 95% of tobacco users start before the age of 21, so increasing the age to purchase tobacco would reduce those youth smoking rate by 25%," McIntee said.

The city will delay publishing the ordinance until Mankato makes the same change.

"The conversation has always been that it'll be done jointly across the two communities. We have different ordinances and different processes which is why the timing is somewhat different but it has always been to be a community wide effort," Dehen said.

Mankato's public hearing will be held on Feb. 12.

Dehen says he's hopeful the city will follow North Mankato and move forward with the ordinance as well.

"Mankato and North Mankato have a long history of being on the forefront of the smoking issue. We were one of the first communities in the state to adopt the indoor smoking act so this is that next step of the process of evolving," he said.

If Mankato does not pass the ordinance North Mankato will have to decide whether to move forward or retract the ordinance altogether. 

Over 200 cities in the U.S. have passed similar ordinances, including Bloomington, St. Louis Park and Edina here in Minnesota.

----KEYC News 12