Minneapolis moves one step closer to a ban on menthol cigarettes

Brands like Newport have long advertised heavily in black neighborhoods.

Brands like Newport have long advertised heavily in black neighborhoods. Newport

It was only late last month that Minneapolis council members Cam Gordon and Lisa Bender proposed banning menthol sales at gas stations and convenience stores, limiting them to adult-only smoke shops.

The measure has proceeded swiftly despite retailers' cries of a knifing to their livelihoods. On Tuesday, the city's health committee voted unanimously to pass the ordinance. Attached was council member Andrew Johnson's amendment to give a small cushion to businesses by exempting liquor stores that also sell cigarettes. Enforcement wouldn't be until August 1, 2018.

The vote follows a two-hour public hearing on July 24. At the time, nearly 80 people spoke in favor of restricting menthols, which advocates say are advertised heavily to African American smokers, as well as children. Still, opponents claimed a victory when council member Alondra Cano abruptly slipped away toward the end of the meeting, denying a vote.

On Tuesday, members Gordon, Bender, Johnson, Jacob Frey, and Elizabeth Glidden all returned to support the ordinance in its second attempt. Cano was again absent for the vote, but explained that it was because her babysitter was late. She said she would vote for the ordinance with the full council on Friday. 

As an olive branch to small business owners, Gordon asked the city's economic development staff to help them during the transition.

"I also hope that all of us who shop at our stores will work even harder to buy local, consider shopping more, and even suggest new product choices to store owners we would purchase if they were available," he wrote in a Facebook post last week, while admitting that the council received feedback only from a small percent of all tobacco retailers in Minneapolis.

"Even just telling them you are excited about this city wide improvement to help protect the health of our youth, and that you are going to keep shopping at their store could go a long way to easing anxiety over this move."