St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - A Rochester lawmaker has introduced a bill that would raise the legal age for smoking in Minnesota to 21. Republican State Senator Carla Nelson says the legislation would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The current state law allows anyone 18 years of age and older to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products.

"Raising the tobacco age will prevent young people from smoking and save money, as those young people grow up to live healthier lives," said Sen. Nelson, a longtime supporter of tobacco prevention measures. "Smoking costs Minnesota about $7 billion annually in excess health care costs and lost productivity from smoking. Tobacco 21 will address this problem where it starts."

The measure is backed by Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation. The coalition of over 50 health organizations says research shows that increasing the legal age by three years would prevent an estimated 30,000 kids from becoming smokers over the next 15 years. The group also cites polls that show 75-percent of adults in the U.S. favor the change.

Nationwide, two states have enacted a higher smoking age, while 220 cities and counties throughout the US have passed local ordinances setting the legal age of 21. The Edina City Council voted earlier this week to become the first city in Minnesota to enact a law making it illegal to sell cigarettes to 18, 19 and 20-year-old adults.