By BETSY BROCK
The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on July 10 to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products other than menthol to adult-only tobacco shops. The Council also increased the price of cigars to $2.60 apiece. Several other cities in Minnesota, including Maplewood, Bloomington, Saint Paul, and Brooklyn Center, have adopted policies that regulate the price of cheap cigars. However, no other Minnesota cities have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products. Nationally, New York City and Providence, RI, have similar policies in place that served as a model for the Minneapolis ordinance.
The new policy means that only about 15 of the city’s 400-plus tobacco vendors will be allowed to sell candy-flavored tobacco products. In order to sell these products, the stores must derive at least 90 percent of their revenue from tobacco and be adult-only at all times.
Council Members Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Blong Yang (Ward 5) co-authored the ordinance in response to an outcry from youth from the Minneapolis Youth Congress and the Breathe Free North program at NorthPoint Health & Wellness, who said these products are appealing to young people.
“We heard loud and clear from Minneapolis youth that flavored tobacco products are what most kids use when they start smoking,” Council Member Cam Gordon said. “We believe that limiting access to these products will help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations.”
Opponents of the policy included convenience store owners and chains, such as Holiday, SuperAmerica, Bobby & Steve’s, retailer associations, and Altria, the company that makes Marlboro cigarettes and Skoal. Proponents included health groups and groups who work with youth.
The policy takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016.