Local Policy Victory in the Twin Cities

Yesterday, St. Paul City Council voted to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco products to liquor stores and adult-only tobacco shops. Council Members voted 6-1, with the ordinance taking effect on November 1, 2018. The City of St. Paul is the second city in Minnesota to pass an ordinance restricting access to menthol tobacco, with Minneapolis passing a similar ordinance in August.

Because of deliberate and sophisticated marketing from the tobacco industry, youth, African Americans and LGBTQ people smoke at disproportionately higher rates than the general population and a majority of them use menthol tobacco products. The addition of menthol makes it easier to start and more difficult to quit.

“As a lifelong St. Paul resident, I am so proud of how the community led this effort in calling out the targeting of youth, communities of color and LGBTQ people by the tobacco industry.,” said Anika Ward, Director of the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “I want to thank the members of City Council for their courage, leadership and commitment to the health of St. Paul.”

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 for policy change at both the local and state level that that 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.