Another US City Looks To Ban Menthol Cigarettes Over Vaping Fears

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Democratic lawmakers are inching closer to approving a full ban on menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products, claiming they entice kids into a life of addiction.

The Minneapolis City Council committee voted Wednesday to approve a measure that will ban the sale of these products at nearly every location in the city, impacting hundreds of businesses. Only liquor stores and adult-only tobacco stores won exemptions to the ban on menthol, which will face a final vote before the full Council Friday, reports MPR News.

Small corner stores and shops in the city are heavily criticizing the bill, saying it will crater their tobacco sales, which are a key part of their profits. Convenience store owner Ahmad Al-Hawwari says 80 percent of his sales come from tobacco, 70 percent of which are menthol products.

“It’s going to be an economic devastation for the corner store where they are an essential part of the community they exist in,” Al-Hawwari told MPR News. “It’s very simple math. The income won’t be able to support the operation.”

Lawmakers pushing the legislation say menthol flavors often act as the gateway to cigarette addiction for young Americans, because the mint flavor reduces the harshness of the smoke. They also argue menthol tobacco products are historically marketed towards black Americans, disproportionally impacting these communities.

Small business owners in the city say they understand the motivation behind the proposal, but feel smoking reductions could be achieved through other means. Some suggest raising the age for purchasing tobacco products.

“I feel like we’re looking like the villain right now, as the small business owners,” Kevin Aldwaik, owner of Webber Mart, told Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I hate that I’m working with big tobacco on this, but at this point, I honestly feel that my arms are twisted.”

The proposal follows the model of recently successful efforts to restrict menthol products in California. Democratic officials in San Francisco passed the first ban on menthol cigarettes in the country in a unanimous vote June 20, as well as banning flavored vaping products.

The sale of flavored cigarettes is banned at the federal level, however, the regulations exclude menthol products.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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