Mike Alhataba says he believes 2022 will kill his Oxboro Market tobacco store after more than 20 years in business. The reason: Bloomington will enact a ban on flavored tobacco in January, then roll out one of Minnesota’s toughest tobacco regulations later in the new year.
After banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products on January 1, the city will initiate a sunset on tobacco licensing in June with the intention of eliminating all tobacco sales in the western metropolitan city. .
Bloomington has long been a leader in tobacco regulation, but he’s not alone in banning the sale of flavored products. Starting in the new year, 22 cities across the state will have promulgated flavored tobacco regulations, according to the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota.
Four other cities have adopted regulations similar to Bloomington’s this year. Columbia Heights, Roseville and Shoreview now restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco to anyone under the age of 21 in adult-only tobacco stores. In May, Shoreview approved adding menthol to its existing flavor restriction.
But Bloomington and Moorhead are banning all flavored tobacco products in the New Year. In tobacco stores like Alhataba’s, the vast majority of products sold are flavored tobacco, unlike gas stations where other products would compensate for the loss of stock. This is why he fears having to lay off some or all of his six employees.
âIt’s very extreme,â said Alhataba, who runs the store owned by his stepfather Khaled Aloul. âWith the new law, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Some people are going to lose their jobs.â¦ I’m losing a lot.â
As of December, there were 57 active tobacco licenses in Bloomington. The Oxboro Market opened a second location this year after obtaining a tobacco license in May, a month after Bloomington City Council voted to ban flavored tobacco and put in place sunset on licenses for tobacco. This means that when a store closes, the license will expire and not be renewed. Bloomington is the only city in Minnesota and one of the few cities in the United States with declining tobacco licenses.
The state’s toughest and tightest tobacco regulations came into effect in St. Paul this month. The city council passed an ordinance to increase the price of a packet of cigarettes to $ 10 and prohibit the redemption of coupons for all tobacco and vaping products, as well as other measures, such as reducing the number of tobacco licenses available.
What is happening in Bloomington and St. Paul may signal what is on the horizon for the state.
In 2022, the Minnesotans advocacy group for a smoke-free generation will again pursue a ban on flavored tobacco products statewide. The group says the move is being taken in part because of the support that local politicians have had around the state.
“I really feel like there is a momentum from communities around the state that they are signaling that state policy is something lawmakers should consider,” said Jenny Song, consultant Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and spokesperson for Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation.
Song said she believes the timing for such legislation is critical given the high rate of teen vaping, which she and health experts call an epidemic.
The 2020 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that four in five students said their first use of tobacco was flavored, and one in five students uses e-cigarettes, which are most commonly flavored.
Another milestone was the demise of ClearWay Minnesota, the nonprofit tobacco control organization established in 1998 with a small portion (3%) of the state’s historic $ 6.1 billion tobacco settlement. for the state next year.
Song said ClearWay’s absence will be felt in 2022 and the state urgently needs to invest more to tackle the youth smoking epidemic.
Less than 1% of the $ 760 million the state brought in from tobacco taxes, known as the Sin Tax, and settlement fees went to tobacco prevention and treatment in 2020, has Song said. The vast majority went into the general state fund to pay for infrastructure, education and public safety.
The disparity is undeniable, she said.
âIt is very curious that so little actually goes to solving the problem which is still the leading cause of preventable death and disease,â Song said.