St. Paul Approves Menthol Restrictions

Minnesota city joins Minneapolis in plans to take products off c-store shelves

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Paul, Minn., City Council voted Nov. 1, 2017, to follow sister city Minneapolis in restricting the sale of menthol, mint and wintergreen tobacco products to tobacco shops and liquor stores, according to the Star Tribune. The new rule would take those products off convenience-store shelves when it goes into effect in a year on Nov. 1, 2018.

St. Paul council members delayed their initial vote for a month to hear additional public comment, which led to the final 6-1 vote in favor of the restrictions. Both sides of the debate were in full force, the newspaper reported, with comments ranging from residents who lost family members to cancer to c-store owners saying the restriction will cost them their businesses.

The goal of the restrictions is to further limit access to tobacco products, with a particular concern for young people who advocates say have an attraction to flavored tobacco products. According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, 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.”

Diya Shuaibi, manager of Premium Stop near the St. Paul-Maplewood, Minn., border, told the Star Tribune that nearly half his tobacco sales are menthol products and customers will just go to Maplewood or a tobacco or liquor store to get the products. “It’s not fair,” he said. “The logic behind it doesn’t make sense. If something is bad, it should be banned for everybody.”

This past summer, the Minneapolis City Council voted on similar restrictions, allowing only tobacco shops and liquor stores to sell menthol products beginning Aug. 1, 2018. San Francisco banned the sale of menthol products earlier this year, though a signature campaign that followed will bring the ordinance to a citizen vote. 

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