Commentary

Protect our communities from flavored tobacco products

flavoredcigsDid you know that tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in Minneapolis? Now local residents have an opportunity to stand up to Big Tobacco and protect our children.

The Minneapolis city council is considering changes to the city’s tobacco ordinance to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products (other than menthol) to adult-only tobacco stores and set a minimum price for cigars. Similar measures have already been adopted by other communities around the U.S. to protect children from flavored tobacco products, which are shown to be attractive to young people.

Cigarettes containing flavors other than menthol can no longer be sold in the United States. However, tobacco products such as little cigars, cigarillos, chew, e-cigarettes and others are still sold in candy flavors such as bubble gum, strawberry and grape. Right now in our city, more than 60 percent of the nearly 400 Minneapolis stores that sell tobacco offer flavored products.

Now, we know who the tobacco industry is targeting with their marketing – my community. As an African American Elder and Health and Wellness Activist, it is disheartening to see the too many youth and young mother, with children in tow, smoking one of these cancer-causing products; while appearing to be unaware of its deadly harm. Near North Minneapolis is already impacted by social determinants of health that contributes to existing health disparities.

That’s why it’s important to protect our next generation from becoming addicted adults. Not only do these sweet flavors invite curious youth to try tobacco products – they also mask the harshness of tobacco. Plus, youth mistakenly think that flavored tobacco products are safer than non-flavored tobacco. In fact, they are just as dangerous as cigarettes with the same health risks of cancer and heart disease.

Let’s stand up against the tobacco industry and help protect our children from a life-threatening addition to tobacco and support a common-sense proposal now before the city council to restrict the sale of flavored products (other than menthol) to adult-only tobacco stores and set minimum prices for cigars. Take a stand and call your city council representative to voice your support and make your voice heard at a public hearing on this proposal.

Asante Sana!

July 1, 2015
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