Minneapolis strengthens law on flavored tobacco

Menthol sales now regulated like other flavored tobacco

The City Council voted today to help protect young people’s health by restricting sales of all flavored tobacco products including menthol, mint and wintergreen to tobacco shops and off-sale liquor stores.

The regulation on menthol, mint and wintergreen will take effect in August 2018, reducing availability of these products from 318 tobacco outlets to 23 tobacco products shops and 24 liquor stores. Sales of other flavored tobacco products have already been restricted to tobacco shops since 2016.

These changes are to prevent youth tobacco use, lifelong addiction to nicotine, the negative health effects of tobacco use and 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 such as blunt wraps to tobacco products shops.

In 2016, 12 percent of tobacco outlets in Minneapolis illegally sold tobacco products to people under age 18. Between April and June 2017, youths participating in the Minneapolis Health Department’s youth compliance check program were sold tobacco in 23 of the 180 stores they visited.

Menthol

Menthol is a chemical compound extracted from the peppermint or corn mint plant or created synthetically. Because of its numbing qualities, menthol is used in medicines and tobacco products to relieve throat irritation and produce a cooling feeling. Nearly half (44 percent) of high school tobacco users use menthol products.

Menthol tobacco is also easier to get addicted to because menthol increases nicotine absorption leading to a stronger addiction than non-menthol products. Many studies show that menthol users have higher nicotine dependence and smoking urge.

Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable death in Minnesota and the United States. Preventing underage tobacco use is a key public health strategy for preventing tobacco-related illness and death because 87 percent of current smokers started using tobacco products before they were age 18. This means that if youth smoking can be prevented, adult smoking and related tobacco illness and death will continue to decline. The nicotine in tobacco products can also harm adolescent brain development.

Find more information about what Minneapolis is doing to protect young people from tobacco.