Minneapolis adds menthol tobacco sales restrictions

The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to restrict sales of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, mint and wintergreen, to tobacco shops and off-sale liquor stores. Starting Aug. 1, 2018, menthol cigarettes will no longer be sold in Minneapolis gas stations, convenience stores.

In fact, the new regulation will cut the availability of menthol and mint tobacco products from 318 stores to 23 tobacco shops and 24 liquor stores. Sales of other flavored tobacco products have already been restricted to tobacco shops since 2016.

WHY? Minneapolis voted for the change in an effort to prevent youth tobacco use and cut-in to the tobacco-related health disparities between white populations and people of color. This ordinance will also restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco-related devices, like blunt wraps, to tobacco shops.

In 2016, 12 percent of tobacco outlets in Minneapolis illegally sold tobacco products to people under age 18. Between April 2017 and June 2017, youths compliance checks for illegal sales in 23 of the 180 stores they visited.

WHAT IS MENTHOL? Menthol is a chemical extracted from the peppermint or corn mint plant, and often created synthetically. Menthol’s numbing and cooling properties are used in medicines to relieve throat irritation. Menthol tobacco is also easier to get addicted to because menthol increases nicotine absorption leading to a stronger addiction than non-menthol products.

Anti-smoking advocates say menthol and mint-flavored compounds in cigarettes make it easier for teenagers to start smoking. A 2014 report from the Minnesota Department of Health found that more than 40 percent of high school smokers used menthols.