About two years ago, Minneapolis banned flavored tobacco products from convenience stores. Gone are the days of buying cherry, vanilla, coffee, or otherwise tasty-sounding cigarettes, cigars, and chew at your local corner store.
It was an effort to protect kids. Critics said companies were using flavored tobacco to appeal to young people and get them started using nicotine.
But the ban didn't include minty flavors – so now the city wants to expand it to include menthol, mint and wintergreen flavored tobacco products.
Council members Lisa Bender and Cam Gordon, who proposed the amendment to the tobacco ordinance, believe it will help keep even more cigarettes out of the hands of minors.
Arguments for and against
If the amendment were to pass, people could still buy the minty products in Minneapolis. They'd just have to go to an adult smoke shop instead of a gas station.
But that doesn't sit well with local convenience store owners, who claim that their businesses will suffer because a large percentage of their customers smoke menthol cigarettes.
The city council heard from speakers on both sides of the issue at Monday's public hearing. Those speaking against the ban included Ahmad Al-Hawari,a convenience store owner who claims that 75 percent of total sales at his Pennwood Market in north Minneapolis come from menthol tobacco products, the Star Tribune says.
The Coalition of Neighborhood Retailers claims that Minneapolis convenience stores that sell tobacco – the city council says there are 317 – would lose $226,000 per store, per year under the menthol ban, City Pages says.
Meanwhile, advocates of the ban say menthol products are disproportionately used by youth, black and LGBT communities. The city says about half of all high school tobacco users choose menthol products, and that menthol cigarette marketing targets minorities and low-income people.
Statistics from the CDC seem to support that claim – the organization says 9 out of 10 African-American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes. Coupons and price promotions for menthols are also most often used by minority groups, women, and young people, the CDC says.
The city council is expected to vote on the ordinance in early August, WCCO says.