City is 23rd Minnesota community to restrict sales of products 

Columbia Heights, Minn. (10/12/2021) – The Columbia Heights City Council took a major step on Monday night to protect the health of youth and all residents from the harms of tobacco.  

The City Council voted 4-0 to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, to adult-only tobacco stores. Menthol-, candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products are attractive to youth, and the tobacco industry uses these flavors to hook a new generation of users, resulting in addiction, disease and death. Eighty percent of youth tobacco users use flavored tobacco. 

Additionally, the council voted to remove purchase, use, and possession penalties for those under the age of 21. These penalties–known as PUP penalties–divert focus from addressing irresponsible retailers and the tobacco industry which has a long history of targeting youth. The council had previously voted to update its tobacco ordinance to meet state requirements that raise the tobacco sales age to 21.  

Speaking in support of the ordinance, Councilmember Kt Jacobs outlined her rationale for wanting to approve the changes. “Vaping erased 15 years of progress lowering the use of tobacco by our youth. The numbers are just astounding.” Jacobs went on to say, “I’ve listened to companies that have come forward locally. I’ve listened to the residents. Policies such as the ones before us this evening are proven to reduce the use by both youth and African American adults, two of the most targeted tobacco industry market groups. I cannot in good conscience ignore these numbers as I cast my vote this evening.”

Student data survey results released in 2020 showed an alarming jump in the rate of teens vaping in Minnesota.  Flavored vapes are the choice of youth. Overall youth tobacco use had already taken an upward swing in 2017 for the first time in 17 years because of e-cigarette and flavored cigar use.  

“On Monday night, Columbia Heights joined a growing group of Minnesota cities to recognize the importance of implementing strong restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco to protect youth and help alleviate health disparities,” said Emily  Anderson, Director of Policy at the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota. “The tobacco industry has long used sweet, candy and mint flavors to hook smokers. Minnesota communities understand that they can have a positive impact on their cities by acting now. We hope that state leaders will take notice and take statewide action soon.” 

In Minnesota, African American (88 percent), LGBTQ youth (70 percent) and all youth (34 percent) smokers use menthol at a higher rate than the general population.  Columbia Heights is the 23rd Minnesota community to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco and the 18th to also restrict the sale of menthol. Ten of those cities completely ban flavors. 

The ordinance takes effect in 30 days.