Duluth community advocates push back on Big Tobacco

On Monday, February 12, Duluth City Council voted to restrict the sale of flavored and menthol tobacco products to adult-only tobacco shops. Council Members voted 7-2, with the ordinance taking effect on June 1, 2018. Duluth is now the third city in Minnesota – the first in Greater Minnesota – to restrict flavored and menthol tobacco products to adult-only tobacco shops. 

Duluth menthol vote

Because of deliberate and sophisticated marketing from the tobacco industry, African Americans, American Indians and LGBTQ people smoke at disproportionately higher rates than the general population and with a majority using menthol tobacco products. The addition of menthol makes it easier to start and more difficult to quit. Candy flavored tobacco products are targeted to youth, who represent “replacement smokers” to tobacco companies.

“Congratulations to all of the community advocates who came together to tell their City Councilors to prioritize community health over tobacco industry profits,” said Ani Koch, Senior Program Manager, Community Health and Health Equity at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “Thanks to the Duluth City Council for their courage, leadership and commitment to the health of Duluth.”

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Earlier this year, Blue Cross released a study showing that each year, smoking claims over 6,000 Minnesota lives and costs $3.19 billion to treat smoking-related diseases. That equates to $593 for every adult and child in Minnesota. The number of deaths is equal to eliminating an entire small Minnesota town.

Blue Cross is the co-chair of Minnesotans for a Smoke-free Generation, a coalition of more than 50 community organizations working to reduce youth smoking and help end the death and disease associated with tobacco use, including limiting youth access to menthol-, candy- and fruit- flavored tobacco, raising the tobacco age to 21, keeping tobacco prices high and funding tobacco control programs.

  • Making Healthy Choices Possible for All Minnesotans

    The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota tackles the leading causes of preventable disease -- tobacco use, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating -- to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state.