St. Paul council votes to restrict menthol tobacco products

- The St. Paul City Council voted Wednesday to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco products to adult-only tobacco and liquor stores.

The ordinance, passed 6-1, is designed to "reduce youth smoking and combat tobacco industry targeting," according to a release.

Councilmember Jane Prince authored the ordinance. The council wrote that "the tobacco industry has targeted the African American community for five decades with menthol tobacco products. The industry also targets youth, women and the LGBTQ community," contributing to health disparities in the state.

The ordinance received support from more than 50 organizations involved in the Minnesota Menthol Coalition, including the St. Paul NAACP, Hmong Health Care Professionals Coalition and more.

However, not everyone in the city supports the ordinance.

Abdalla Tobasi owns two Minnoco gas stations in St. Paul. He said he’s worried about what the ban will do to his business. He said it will cost him 68 percent of his overall cigarette sales and more than $10,000 a month.

“What [they] did to me.. [they] gave my business to someone else. That's not fair,” Tobasi said. “If you have a big problem with tobacco take it to Washington. Why bring it to my store? After all, it is a legal product. I am licensed by the city of St. Paul to sell tobacco.” 

The ordinance will go into effect Nov. 1, 2018.

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