Council committee approves new restrictions on flavored tobacco products

The City Council’s Health, Energy and Environment Committee approved changes to the city’s tobacco ordinance Monday that limits the sale of flavored tobacco products to specialty tobacco shops in an effort to prevent youth from smoking.

The full Council will vote on the proposed amendments Friday, July 10.

The vote came after a couple of people spoke on behalf of gas station owners and raised concerns that the restrictions will hurt the businesses. One speaker suggested the restrictions be limited to markets without gas pumps and said gas stations in the city have policies in place to make sure the flavored tobacco products aren’t sold to minors. Several people raised similar concerns at the first public hearing on the issue June 8.

In addition to limiting the sale of flavored tobacco products to tobacco shops, tobacco shops would be required to prohibit entrance to underage customers and set $2.60 as the new minimum price for a cigar.

At a City Hall hearing on June 8, Minneapolis Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant said the flavored tobacco products have been marketed to appeal to young people. “These flavored products look like candy,” she said.

The flavored tobacco products covered by the proposed ordinance amendments include little cigar and cigarillo products, e-juice, shisha, smokeless tobacco and other non-cigarette tobacco products.

Menthol-flavored versions of the products, however, would be exempt from the restrictions.

If approved by the full Council, the number of places people could buy flavored tobacco products would go from about 355 businesses (gas stations, convenience stores, etc.) to 15 specialty tobacco stores. The changes would take effect Sept. 1.