Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation: St. Paul Leaders Choose Lives Over Big Tobacco Profits

ST. PAUL, Minn., Nov. 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ —┬áMinnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation, a coalition of more than 50 organizations working to reduce youth tobacco use, thanked the St. Paul City Council for voting to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco products to liquor stores and adult-only tobacco shops. The Council approved the policy at its November 1 meeting and it will take effect on November 1, 2018. Menthol products are popular among young people because they mask the harshness of tobacco smoke. Taking these products out of stores that young people visit will make it less likely they will try them.

The following is a statement from Molly Moilanen, Director of Public Affairs at ClearWay Minnesota, and co-chair of the Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation coalition:

“We thank the members of the St. Paul City Council for taking this step to protect our young people from menthol tobacco. Menthol tobacco is marketed to women, African Americans, Latinos, the LGBTQ community and young people, and as a result those groups are more likely to smoke menthol. The tobacco industry knows that menthol masks the harshness of their deadly product, making it easier to start and harder to quit. Thank you, St. Paul leaders, for listening to your community and taking steps to ensure a healthier future generation by restricting access to menthol-flavored products.”

Research confirms that tobacco companies have targeted African Americans with menthol marketing for decades. As a result, 88 percent of African American smokers use menthol.

During public hearings prior to today’s vote, local African American leaders, medical professionals and youth advocates shared their personal stories about how menthol tobacco use impacts their lives and urged the Council to take action. Here is some of what they said:

“My brother passed away from COPD this summer,” said Gene Nichols of the African American Leadership Forum. “You can change that for the next generation with this ordinance.”

“A Blue Cross and Blue Shield report shows smoking claims more than 6,000 lives in Minnesota each year and costs $3.2 billion to treat diseases caused by smoking,” said Anika Ward, Director of the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

“To Big Tobacco, each new smoker and each current smoker who can’t quit means more profits,” said Damone Presley of the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. “For us, the price is high. It is our dad who died way too soon or our grandmother unable to breathe without her oxygen tank.”

“Restricting the sale of these products can improve racial health disparities in St. Paul and reduce inequities now and into the future,” said Tyler Winkleman, a physician. “I hope you will pass this well-conceived, community-driven and evidence-based ordinance. You have an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the public’s health.”

“Tobacco is still a problem in my community,” said William Williams, a 12-year-old youth advocate. “I see kids in my neighborhood smoking menthols almost every day and I see lots of signs at the convenience store advertising for menthol. I hope you will support taking menthol out of stores kids visit every day to protect me, my friends and my family from all of the bad effects of tobacco so we can live healthy lives, tobacco free.”

The final vote today in St. Paul was six Council Members voting in favor with one opposed. Mayor Chris Coleman is expected to sign the ordinance. St. Paul will be the second city in Minnesota to restrict where menthol tobacco can be sold. Earlier this year, Minneapolis passed a similar ordinance, which will take effect in August 2018.

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