Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Minneapolis City Council Supports Continued Addiction of Kids to Flavored Tobacco Products

In a move of striking hypocrisy and cowardice, the Minneapolis City Council has decided to continue supporting the addiction of its kids to flavored tobacco products. What makes the move hypocritical, however, is that the Council has claimed to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city, with the only exception being specialty tobacco shops limited to adults, citing the urgent need to protect the health of future generations by preventing youth from becoming addicted to nicotine.

According to an article in the Southwest Journal: "The City Council has unanimously voted to approve new restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products — a policy change designed to prevent young people from smoking. The sale of flavored tobacco products will be limited to specialty tobacco shops, which are required to restrict people under age 18 from entering. ... “We heard loud and clear from Minneapolis youth that flavored tobacco products are what most kids use when they start smoking,” said Gordon, chair of the Health, Environment and Community Engagement Committee. “We believe that limiting access to these products will help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations.”"

The Rest of the Story

What policy makers in Minneapolis are not telling the public is that the new law exempts the one flavor that is most popular among kids in their jurisdiction and which most contributes to youth addiction to tobacco products: menthol.

In fact, about 50% of youth smokers in middle school prefer menthol flavored cigarettes. And about 81% of African American middle school smokers prefer menthol flavored cigarettes. There are 1.3 million youth menthol smokers in the U.S., making menthol the single and overwhelmingly most popular flavored tobacco product among our nation's youth, including those in Minneapolis.

So while politicians in Minneapolis can boast that youth in that city will not have access to chocolate, vanilla, honey, and cocoa tobacco products, the ordinance does nothing to actually address the most popular flavored tobacco product that Minneapolis youth are actually using: menthol cigarettes. 

One might ask why it is that if policy makers in Minneapolis aimed to "help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations," they chose to exempt the primary flavored tobacco products that youth are actually using.

The answer is quite simple: the true aim was not to "help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations," but to score a political victory without having to actually put a dent in tobacco sales and thus alienate tobacco companies or engender any serious political opposition.

The rest of the story is that the primary aim of these policy makers appears to be protecting the sales of the most popular and important flavored tobacco products among youth tobacco users, so as not to threaten the profits of cigarette companies.

It is difficult to find a sincere desire to "help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations" when one reads the fine print of the ordinance and considers the rest of the story.  

Rather than close the loophole which exempted menthol cigarettes from the FDA's flavored cigarette "ban," the Minneapolis City Council chose to look the other way, while distracting attention from its decision to ignore the problem by praising itself for eliminating youth access to chocolate cigars and cigarillos. 

The rest of the story is that the Council's claim to want to "help prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and dramatically improve the health of future generations" is complete crap. If it were truly sincere, the Council would not have exempted menthol cigarettes, which is overwhelmingly the most popular flavored tobacco product among youth in Minneapolis and which contributes most to harming the health of future generations.

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