MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis City Council passed a ban on flavored tobacco products in convenience stores in 2015.
“I’m very interested in making Minneapolis a healthier city,” said Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon. “I want to keep our youth from getting hooked on cigarettes.”
Gordon says he and many of his constituents have been battling an increasing number of young people starting to light up.
“We’re seeing the number of youth 24 and under starting to smoke increasing, and what we want is that to go down,” Gordon said.
He is proposing amending an existing city ordinance that would add menthol and mint-flavored tobacco products to the list of flavored products that can only be sold at tobacco shops.
Some convenient store owners are not happy with his efforts.
“They’re just taking the business from us and giving it to the tobacco shops,” said a north Minneapolis business owner.
He says losing menthol cigarette sales would do more than just hurt his business.
“We’re going to have to shut it down,” he said. “Menthol cigarettes are over 70 percent of our sales in the store. We cannot survive without them.”
The National Association of Tobacco Outlets says the amended ordinance would cost Minneapolis retailers about $73 million per year in sales if enacted.
Gordon says the ordinance is meant to save lives — not stop people from making a living.
“[We’ll] look at how we can phase it in, is there technical support we can give to some of the businesses that are struggling, because I don’t want to put anybody out of business and I don’t want to cost anybody their job,” Gordon said.
He says hopefully this is a case of city government working with community members to take a step together to improve the health of citizens.
An industry meeting with lobbyists and convenience store owners will be set up soon.
The first public hearing on the proposed ordinance amendment will take place on July 24 at 1:30 p.m.