In Minnesota, furnishing tobacco to a minor (person under 21 years old) is a petty misdemeanor for a first offense. A second offense or more within five years is a misdemeanor offense. Misdemeanors have a maximum punishment of up to ninety days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Importantly, Tobacco 21 is a law that went into effect on August 1, 2020. This made 21 the threshold age to sell or furnish tobacco to someone, raising the age from 18. Studies show that raising the age should reduce smoking and vaping in young people, since most adults started smoking before they turned 21.

Notably, there is not a Minnesota statute that prohibits possession of tobacco for a person under 21. The thought is that giving those a criminal record for such an act is not worth it. Importantly, this is just according to Minnesota statutes and does not affect local city ordinances. Such ordinances may prohibit possession. Check your locality to see if that is the case. Statewide, the decision was to go after those who provide tobacco to people under 21 instead.

The most common tobacco product is cigarettes. But it also includes cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, tobacco-related products, such as rolling papers, pipes, bongs, electronic delivery devices, such as electronic cigarettes, vape pens, and modes. It is common to see pipes, bowls, and the like sold at smoke shops. Similar to selling tobacco to a person under 21, it is also punishable to sell these products to someone under 21.

There is an affirmative defense to furnishing tobacco or tobacco-related products to someone under 21. If the person charged with furnishing tobacco to a minor reasonably and in good faith relied on proof of age from the person they gave it to. This burden of this defense is a preponderance of the evidence. Therefore, if you sold tobacco to someone who gave you a fake ID, but you reasonably thought the ID was legit, then you can likely use that as a defense to being charged with furnishing tobacco to someone under 21.

There are also administrative (civil) penalties for those that furnish or sell tobacco or tobacco-related products to a person under 21. These apply to the person who furnished it and the employer. For employers, the first violation is an administrative penalty of $300. A second violation within thirty-six months of the first is a $600 fine. A third or more violation within thirty-six months of the first violation is a $1,000 fine and the employer’s authority to sell tobacco or tobacco-related products is suspended for at least seven days. The person who sold or furnished the tobacco or tobacco-related product will face a $50 administrative penalty in addition to any criminal charges.

Furnishing tobacco to someone under 21 can have a significant impact on criminal background checks, current and future employment opportunities, and general well-being. For a consultation at no charge, please contact Ambrose Law Firm by calling or texting 612-547-3199 or by email at ambroselegal@icloud.com. We help good people in unfortunate situations.

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