By this time next year, menthol cigarettes must be off the shelves of St. Paul convenience stores.
The St. Paul City Council voted 6-1 on Wednesday to approve new restrictions that limit sales of menthol tobacco products to adults-only tobacco shops and liquor stores. The same restrictions will apply to mint, wintergreen and fruit-flavored tobacco products.
Council President Russ Stark acknowledged that the restrictions are “not a silver bullet” but an attempt “to make sure the next generation of kids growing up in St. Paul are less likely to get hooked on tobacco products.”
The Minneapolis City Council approved a menthol ban in early August that also will take effect in a year.
In St. Paul, a council vote had been scheduled for late September, but retailers who have already been forced to adjust this year to offering paid sick leave to their employees made impassioned pleas to consider the impacts on their bottom-line.
For some small retailers, tobacco sales form a majority of their profits. Others said they’re unable to get distributors to ship them groceries and other store items unless the delivery totals $1,000. For micro-businesses, that’s a harder sum to achieve without cartons of cigarettes in the shipment.
The city’s Department of Safety and Inspections held a meeting recently with store owners to discuss their concerns.
In recent weeks, “the focus has been on some of the challenges in terms of the business impacts,” Stark said, “but … targeting the African-American community over the decades … has cost our society millions, and possibly billions of dollars.”
Council Member Jane Prince, who authored the ordinance, said she would have no hesitation to propose even tougher restrictions in the future.
“Your business future is tied to the tobacco industry at your own peril,” Prince said. “I am sick of this industry that has cost our city, state and nation … human lives.”
Council Member Dan Bostrom, an original sponsor of the new restrictions, voted against them, saying the new rules will not take the products off the streets. Instead, they’ll give tobacco and liquor stores a monopoly, allowing tobacco shops to expand.
At the request of council member Amy Brendmoen, the restrictions will take effect in a year — on Nov. 1, 2018 — instead of within 90 days, giving street-corner stores more time to adjust.
In addition, Brendmoen had proposed allowing liquor stores to sell menthol cigarettes, which was approved by the council 4-3 last week.
Source: Twin Cities Pioneer Press
Info Graphic Source: Lethal Lure