The Minneapolis City Council unanimously voted Friday to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco exclusively to traditional tobacco stores – leaving hundreds of convenience stores and corner markets in Minneapolis to drop these products.
You may have seen or heard the ads by “Still A Problem” – A component of ClearWay Minnesota – an organization who’s goal is quote, “reducing tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke through research, action and collaboration.” Despite stating in a report to the Ramsey Country District Court and Minnesota State legislature that they “do not conduct youth-specific initiatives” – they have been pushing for this youth-oriented effort in media and legislative campaigns. On Clearway’s website they state, “menthol cigarettes are targeted to and disproportionately used by groups including African Americans, young people, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) communities.”
Blong Yang, who co-authored this new policy, told Alpha News that he “voted in favor of the flavored tobacco restrictions because of youth access” and that “Clearway Minnesota was involved in the process of passing the ordinance”
Alpha News spoke to Nael, part owner of a Minneapolis’ local, Bobby’s Corner Store – which like many other corner stores is family owned – Nael is claiming this is yet another example of government restrictions killing small businesses like his by taking away popular products…
“We sell the product every day, the whole day pretty much – I mean we have it fully stocked here, because we have a lot of customers for it, all these customers they demand it “
But are convenience stores actually failing to comply with not selling these products to minors?Alpha News spoke to Anne Mason, the Public Affairs Director at Clearway Minnesota, who responded that “We don’t deal with compliance, so I can’t speak to who plays by the rules and who doesn’t…”
Nael told Alpha News, “we abide by all laws, we have our licensing, we have our products right behind the counter, we don’t sell to minors – we sell to people over 18, because that’s what the law says.”
The new policy also raises the price on mini cigars, regardless of whether or not they are flavored. Mason could not confirm if this will be a statewide initiative by ClearWay’s relatively strong lobbying faction in the upcoming legislative session.