LUVERNE - At 17 years old, a Luverne High School senior passionate about finding a solution to combat the nation’s - and Minnesota’s - No. 1 preventable killer has successfully drafted and passed a new law.
One of eight mock bills signed into law at the recent American Legion Auxiliary Minnesota Girls State summit, Jaydn Anderson’s bill would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in an effort to reduce the appeal of teen tobacco use.
“Flavored tobacco products are clearly aimed to addict youth to cigarettes and vaping,” Anderson said. “Teen tobacco use has skyrocketed in recent years with the aggressive marketing of flavored tobacco products like e-cigarettes.”
The “law” - passed by a committee that reviewed more than 300 bills introduced during the week-long summit at Bethel University in Arden Hills - would apply to flavored-tobacco product containing tobacco or nicotine, including e-cigarettes and the liquids that go in them. The mock legislation includes fines and revocation of tobacco licenses for offenders.
Luverne’s student body president said she was inspired to draft the mock bill by a combination of her mother’s influence and from her own experience. Her mother, Paula Bloemendaal, was active in the Smoke Free Minnesota campaign at a former job, Anderson said.
Anderson said she has witnessed her peers using flavored tobacco products, even at school.
“I smell it in the classroom all the time,” Anderson said.
Anderson admitted that the second-hand smell produced by an e-cigarette smells good, which is part of the ultimate problem, she said.
“It’s masking a really bad product as fun for kids to do,” Anderson said. “(Teens) think it’s harmless, but it’s really, really not. It’s so bad for you and is a gateway to lifelong addiction.”
Anderson’s proposal comes at the heels of a 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. The survey - released by the Minnesota Department of Health - found that teen tobacco use has risen for the first time in 17 years. The survey found that more than 60 percent of youth tobacco users reported using flavored products in the past 30 days during the time responses were recorded.
Despite the law being a mock scenario, Anderson’s traction to make a positive effort to protect teen health does not die with the conclusion of Girls State. The mock bill will go to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk, as well as Girls Nation.
“I hope that it makes sense and that he might want to pursue actual legislation for this,” Anderson said. “I hope in the future it can become a real thing and we can see positive change.”
A member of Luverne Public School’s mock trial team since eighth grade, Anderson said she learned a lot about United States democracy and the different levels of government during her Girls State experience.
Sponsored by the American Legion Post 478 in Hardwick, Anderson was elected mayor of the Girls State City of Perch.
While she does not have any immediate plans to become a politician, Anderson said getting an inside look at the role and functionality of government was invaluable.
“It was really cool and encouraged me to want to be active in our democracy,” Anderson said.