Minneapolis leaders may restrict menthol cigarette sales

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — The sale of menthol cigarettes in Minneapolis may soon be restricted to adult-only tobacco shops.

The city already has an ordinance that limits other flavored tobacco products, such as fruit-flavored chewing tobacco, to adult-only tobacco shops. Restricting menthols is the next step, said Council Member Cam Gordon.

“This is something that we’ve been getting contacted about for a while,” Gordon said. “We were hearing from a lot of people that this is a gateway for young people into tobacco and nicotine addiction.”

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A public hearing for the proposed ordinance to restrict methanol sales is scheduled for July 24. If the ordinance is approved, Minneapolis would be the first city in the state to restrict menthol cigarette sales. San Francisco and Chicago have similar policies.

A 2014 report from the Minnesota Department of Health found that more than 40 percent of high school smokers used menthols. Anti-smoking advocates argue that a mint-flavored compound in the cigarettes that creates a cooling sensation makes it easier for teenagers to start smoking.

Menthol cigarettes were introduced in the 1920s. They were originally marketed as a healthy alternative to other tobacco products, a misconception that continues today, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Association for Nonsmokers and NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center launched an education campaign after the flavored tobacco ordinance passed in 2015, with the goal of getting a menthol cigarette ordinance passed. The campaign has formed a group of nearly 50 local organizations that support the ordinance.

Other Minnesota cities have enacted legislation to make it more difficult for teenagers to acquire tobacco products. In May, Edina raised the minimum age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. Last year, St. Paul also limited the sale of flavored tobacco to specialty stores.