City of Bloomington takes action to protect youth from commercial tobacco products

On April 26, Bloomington’s City Council continued its leadership of protecting youth against the harms of commercial tobacco products through bold and innovative policy action. In a 4-2 vote, the City Council voted to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, and to sunset the availability of new tobacco retail licenses in the city, effectively reducing the number of retailers over several years. The flavoring changes go into effect on January 1, 2022 and the licensing changes go into effect on June 30, 2022.

The harms of tobacco use impact entire communities. Over the last 20 years, tobacco prevention efforts have made historic gains in reducing youth tobacco use. This trend was upended in recent years as flavored tobacco products, and flavored e-cigarettes in particular, saturated communities. Youth and adolescents are especially drawn to flavored tobacco products as a means to start smoking. In Minnesota, 78% of high school and middle school students reported that the first tobacco product they ever tried was flavored. Additionally, 70% of youth who use e-cigarettes reported signs of dependence. The data show flavored tobacco products are hooking an entire generation on tobacco.

“Removing these products from our stores and eliminating them from teens’ social circles will reduce the number of youth who ever start smoking,” Bloomington Public Health Administrator Nick Kelley said. “Youth in Bloomington will grow up in a community free of tobacco products that mimic candy and sugary drinks. They will pass fewer tobacco shops on their way to school. The impact of this work will be felt for generations.”

This work directly builds on the Council’s resolution declaring that racism is a public health crisis. “The intentional push of menthol products into marginalized communities by the tobacco industry has resulted in grave health disparities,” Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse said. “Inaction on the issue of menthol has left these inequities to grow and has done immeasurable harm to our BIPOC neighbors. Eliminating these products from our community will help to advance health equity.”  

Bloomington will be leading the nation in reducing youth tobacco use by sun-setting tobacco retail licenses in the community. The city will join several other states and communities in eliminating flavored tobacco products from the market. On April 29, the Food and Drug Administration announced that they will begin the rulemaking process to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

On May 3, 2021, the City Council directed staff to work with Licensed Tobacco Retailers to evaluate potential options to support tobacco retailers in relinquishing their licenses.

The Bloomington Public Health Division provides health services across Bloomington, Edina and Richfield. Learn more about the City of Bloomington’s tobacco policy work at blm.mn/tobacco.