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Tobacco

Minneapolis Menthol Restriction Passes

City council limits sales to 21-and-over outlets

MINNEAPOLIS -- Against the objection of local convenience-store retailers, the Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to restrict the sale of menthol-flavored tobacco to adults-only stores.

In a vote of 10 to 2, council members passed an ordinance restricting the sale of all menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products flavored menthol, mint and wintergreen to stores that only allowed in customers who are 21 or older. They also passed an amendment to extend the effective date for a year, until Aug. 1, 2018, according to Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), Minneapolis. The rule would cut the number of outlets selling those products from 325 to 24.

The council passed a similar restriction on tobacco flavors other than menthol, mint and wintergreen in 2015, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

“Banning the sale of this legal product will only drive these sales to a criminal and underground market and make the tobacco much more accessible to the youth,” said Ahmad Al-Hawwari, a c-store operator on the city’s north side. “There are so many issues the City Council should be looking at and dealing with. Why are they trying to push through this ban that could devastate my sales and store and close a family-owned business?”

“Retailers appreciate the Minneapolis City Council extending the effective date of the menthol sales ban to Aug. 1, 2018,” Briant told CSP Daily News, saying that a group called the Coalition of Neighborhood Retailers will proceed with a retail, economic-impact study that would document the financial hardship the ordinance would impose on Minneapolis convenience stores and corner markets. “If, as the Coalition expects, the study shows devastating sales losses, the closure of businesses and the layoff of employees, we are hopeful that the Minneapolis City Council revisits the menthol sales ban before it goes into effect a year from now.”

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