Saturday, May 21, 2022

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New Local Ordinances, Push for Statewide Tobacco Restrictions in MN

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Monday, January 3, 2022   

With 2022 underway, more than 20 Minnesota cities now have local ordinances restricting or banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, and the new year will likely see another run at adopting a statewide law.

Cities like Bloomington have added new regulations, including a ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products, along with a sunset of new tobacco retail licenses.

Jeanne Weigum, president of the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, said although the federal government is taking steps to crackdown on products such as menthol, there are many flavored items appealing to teens and young adults.

"You don't find some 50-year-old guy going out and buying 'Unicorn Juice' to vape," Weigum observed. "That's not the target audience."

She predicts even more action at the local level. Last month, St. Paul enacted higher tobacco prices and banned discounts. And advocates say they will once again ask legislators for a statewide flavored tobacco ban.

Apart from industry pushback, retailers have often opposed restrictions, arguing they hurt businesses and create dangerous underground markets.

Weigum countered Minnesota has enough legal protections to thwart illegal sales. She feels even with a groundswell of local laws, there is still opportunity to create more demand for a state ban on flavored tobacco.

"I guess the questions comes up, 'Are we at critical mass on these issues?' " Weigum stated. "And, I'd like to say we are, but there are many communities across the state where there have not been these discussions."

The Association noted other barriers in 2022 include a shorter session at the State Capitol, and an election year for state lawmakers. Growing calls for tighter restrictions follow the 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey. The report's authors found an 80% increase in frequent vaping among respondents compared to 2017.


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