2 rules in proposed Minneapolis tobacco ordinance

It is already illegal for anyone under 18 to buy tobacco products, but if a new law passes, Minneapolis could be one of the first communities in the country to change the way tobacco is sold.

The Minneapolis City Council is considering a new ordinance that would do 2 things:

- Set the minimum price of buying a single cigar or cigarillo at $2.60
- Make it illegal to sell flavored tobacco anywhere other than tobacco shops

We sell more tobacco than gas

At the One Stop on West Broadway in north Minneapolis, tobacco makes up more than half of all the sales at the store.

"We sell more tobacco than we sell gas," said owner Sherif Yusef.

Supporters of the new law say tobacco companies use cheap prices, bright colors, and fruit flavors to gets kids hooked. Additionally, they say the problem is worst in African American neighborhoods like north Minneapolis.

"I'd lose a lot of customers," Yusef said. "They'd go to other places. They probably wouldn't come in and buy pop or groceries or gas," he said.

Other see this as a way to help combat and issue that is hitting the African American community especially hard.

"It's a huge issue. Tobacco kills more African Americans than gun violence, than HIV, it's a huge issue. It's always been a huge issue," said Latrisha Vetaw of Breath Free North a program of Northpoint Health and Wellness.

Yusef contends its already illegal to sell tobacco to minors and a new ordinance isn't going to keep them from lighting up if they really want to.

What's next

The Minneapolis City Council will get public feedback on the proposed ordinance on Monday, June 8. A full vote could come next week.

Cities like New York City and Providence, Rhode Island have already passed similar restrictions on flavored tobacco, and so far, four Minnesota communities including St. Paul and Brooklyn Center have set minimum prices for single cigars.
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