The Saint Paul City Council showed strong leadership in protecting the health and well-being of its residents on Nov. 1 by restricting the sale of menthol tobacco products to adult-only tobacco and liquor stores.

The council passed the ordinance 6-1. Councilmember Jane Prince authored the ordinance, which is designed to reduce youth smoking and combat tobacco industry targeting.

“I decided to support the menthol restriction in response to a very broad-based coalition of community groups: people of color, young people, the LGBTQ community, the medical community, and our own public health department,” Prince said. “The coalition made me aware that the tobacco industry has targeted young people and communities of color for decades, focusing the sale of menthol products in communities like the ones I represent. I am fed up with this horrible industry that has cost our city, state and nation a tremendous fortune in dollars and, more importantly, lives.”

The tobacco industry has targeted the African American community for five decades with menthol tobacco products. The industry also highly targets youth, women and the LGBTQ community. This has contributed to the health disparities seen in Saint Paul and across Minnesota.

“Menthol is so addictive that it makes it extremely hard to quit,” said Sylvia Amos, President of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention Women’s Auxiliary. “This fight is about saving lives. Saint Paul is fortunate to have a City Council that is willing to lead on this issue.”

The ordinance had tremendous community support behind it, including 50-plus organizations involved in the Minnesota Menthol Coalition, such as Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, African American Leadership Forum, Saint Paul National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), God Squad, Hmong Health Care Professionals Coalition (HHCPC) and Anglos Latinos Motivados a Superarse (ALMAS), as well as numerous faith-based organizations and churches. Many African American community leaders, including Minnesota Rep. Rena Moran, strongly supported the ordinance.

The community was passionate in placing the health of residents over profits for the tobacco industry.

“When the opposition said we had nothing to lose, it hurt me to the core,” said Damone Presley, ASANDC Youth Count Program Director, “We lose lives. We lose families, children, elders. We lose our community. Thanks to the Saint Paul City Council for putting youth over tobacco industry profits. This ordinance will help protect our communities from the predatory tobacco industry.”