Minnesota’s leader in the Tobacco 21 Movement took further steps to protect youth and vulnerable populations from the targeting of the tobacco industry.

The City Council voted unanimously on June 16 to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol. 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.

During the meeting, Mayor James Hovland pointed out the long-term health care costs of youth becoming hooked on tobacco and talked about how the industry lures them in with flavors. He said the effect on people’s lives outweighed the impact on local merchants.

“I think it’s the smart thing to do,” Hovland said. “It’s a wise public health move.”

Student data survey results released last October showed an alarming jump in the rate of teens vaping in Minnesota. Flavored vapes are the choice of youth. According to the 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, one in four Minnesota 11th graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. That is a 54 percent increase from the 2016 survey.

“Kid-friendly flavors are critical to marketing these products,” said Arjun Maheshwari, a junior at Edina High and member of Gov. Walz’s Children’s Cabinet. “E-liquids come in countless candy flavors that taste like gummi bears, Skittles, and every other sweet flavor under the sun. Once JUUL hit the Minnesota market, I saw vaping take off like wildfire among my peers and classmates.”

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.

“Edina continues to be a leader for tobacco control in Minnesota,” Chris Turner, Media & Communications Manager, at the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, said. “Edina continues to address the human and economic costs of tobacco head on by restricting how and where tobacco is sold in their community. There’s no doubt this will save lives.”

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.

“The tobacco industry has been preying on marginalized communities for decades,” said Eugene Nichols, Open Cities Health Center St. Paul Chairman of the Board. “Menthol masks the harshness of smoking, allowing the poison to go deeper into the lungs and making it easier to pick up smoking. It also makes it much harder to quit.”

Edina is the 16th Minnesota community to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco and the 11th to also restrict the sale of menthol. Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Saint Louis Park, Shoreview, Lauderdale, Duluth, Mendota Heights, Robbinsdale, Falcon Heights, Lilydale, Arden Hills, Golden Valley, Rushford, New Hope and Hennepin County have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products. Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, Mendota Heights, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights, Lilydale, Arden Hills, Golden Valley and Hennepin County also restrict the sale of menthol tobacco products. Four other cites – Golden Valley, Mendota Heights, Lilydale and Arden Hills, completely prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products.