On August 8, 2023, the Richfield City Council voted 3-0 to pass an ordinance that prohibits the sale of all flavored commercial tobacco products, including menthol, and caps the number of tobacco licenses at four. It is the 11th city or county in Minnesota to completely ban flavors, following closely behind its neighbors Bloomington and Edina.
The council heard from five testifiers in support of the ordinance at the August 8th meeting. Aisha Ibrahim, Minnesota Youth Council representative and Eagan Tobacco-Free Society member, spoke about her personal experience with secondhand smoke at school and urged the Council to consider the health of Richfield’s youth. American Heart Association advocate Mark Olson shared how he got involved in tobacco prevention after having a heart attack 16 years ago. In response to the pro-business arguments against the ordinance, Mark said, “I want kids to be able to live the American Dream…Without this ordinance, it’s going to set them up to not even be living to do that.” Councilmember Hayford Oleary dubbed this quote “a pretty perfect line” later in the meeting.
Councilmember Hayford Oleary also read a statement from Councilmember Whalen, who could not attend the meeting. Whalen explained his rationale for supporting the ordinance, writing “…banning the sale of flavored tobacco products plus limiting tobacco licenses over time makes sense as a way to prioritize public health.”
After voting to pass the ordinance, Mayor Supple and Councilmembers Hayford Oleary and Christensen repeatedly emphasized the importance of choosing public health. The Council also mentioned that the city will be removing tobacco products from its municipal liquor stores. “I do recognize that this does have an effect on small business owners, so I think that is something that we do have to acknowledge here,” noted Mayor Supple.
“Richfield’s bold move to clear the market of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, aims to create a healthier city for everyone by reducing tobacco-related health problems, preventing new users and protecting the well-being of young residents from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and its associated risk,” said Molly Schmidtke, Community Outreach Coordinator at ANSR. “Through this proactive stance, Richfield not only champions equity but also fosters the growth of a healthier, more resilient community. Thank you Richfield!”
The ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2024. Thank you to all who played a part in this victory. It is a huge win for public health and tobacco-free environments!