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On July 10, 2015, the Minneapolis City Council followed the example of other cities such as Providence, Rhode Island; Santa Clara, CA; Chicago, IL; and New York, NY; and unanimously passed new restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products and set a minimum sales price for cigars.  Starting on January 1, 2016, the sale of flavored tobacco products, other than menthol flavored, will be restricted to adult-only tobacco stores.  This will result in a reduction in the number of retail outlets for flavored tobacco products in the city from 420 to 25 stores. Currently, approximately two-thirds of Minneapolis tobacco retailers sell flavored little cigars and cigarillos.

Minneapolis In adopting this ordinance, the City Council was responding to the growth in the number and variety of tobacco products with flavors that appeal to youth.  Some examples of the range of flavored products that will be restricted under this ordinance include cotton candy-flavored shisha, apple-flavored chewing tobacco, grape-flavored little cigars, and e-liquids that are sold in thousands of kid-friendly fruit and candy flavors.

This ordinance is particularly important to reduce youth access by making tobacco products less appealing to kids.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “an estimated 70 percent of U.S. middle and high school students who have used a tobacco product in the past 30 days have used at least one flavored tobacco product during this period.”  Brian King, Ph.D., deputy director for research translation in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, summarizes the problem: “Given the popularity of flavored tobacco products among youth, it’s critical to address flavorings in all tobacco products.”  He asserts that “efforts to curb the availability and use of flavored tobacco products could help reduce overall rates of tobacco use among our nation’s youth.”

In addition to restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, this ordinance would also raise the minimum price of cigars to $2.60 each or $10.40 for packs of four or more.  Research has shown that higher tobacco prices decrease tobacco use, and since kids are the most price-sensitive consumers, this policy will create a strong disincentive for kids to start using tobacco products resulting in significant long-term public health benefits.

City Council members Blong Yang and Cam Gordon were co-authors of the ordinance.  They commented that they were responding to efforts by young people in the Minneapolis Youth Congress and the Breathe Free North program at NorthPoint Health & Wellness. “This policy is an important step in the fight to reduce the harm caused by tobacco.  These changes will protect youth from lifelong addiction to tobacco and the associated health problems.  We are proud of the Minneapolis City Council for showing leadership and voting to protect the health of Minneapolis youth,” said Betsy Brock, Director of Research at the Association for Nonsmokers-MN.

The full text of the ordinance can be found here

For more information on how the groundwork and advocacy involved, as well as lessons learned, review ClearWay Minnesota’s Protecting Young People in Minneapolis: A Case Study in Limiting Flavored Tobacco and Raising the Minimum Price of Cigars.

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