The New Brighton City Council held a public hearing on May 14 regarding possible tobacco restrictions within the city.

During the public hearing several community members, business owners and advocates reacted to the possible ordinance change.  

“There are really two local policy considerations in the amended code that has been presented to council and also been shared with the community,” said Public Safety Director Tony Paetznick.  

The first would be to increase the tobacco sales age to 21 and the second would be to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco.   

According to Paetznick, 34 cities and counties in the State of Minnesota have raised the tobacco sales age to 21 and 11 cities have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products

Proposed amended ordinance

Key points in the amended ordinance state that no person shall sell or give away licensed products to any person under the age of 21 and the licensees must verify age by means of government-issued photographic identification.

Additionally, the city would conduct at least one compliance check that involves participation of a person between the ages of 15 and 16 and at least one compliance check that involves the participation of a person between the ages of 18 and 20.  

In regards to the flavored tobacco, the city is exploring three different policy options.

Policy one would prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol within the city limits.

“This is the most restrictive,” said Paetznick.

Policy two would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products by allowing flavored tobacco including menthol cigarettes, e-cigs, cigars and chews to be sold in adult-only tobacco stores.

Policy three would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco but exclude menthol products from sale restrictions.

“That would still allow the menthol to be sold in gas stations, convenience stores and so forth,” said Paetznick,

Public hearing

New Brighton resident and oncologist Alexander Levitan attended the meeting on behalf of the Twin Cities Medical Association and expressed his support for the tobacco restrictions.  

“I perceive your deliberation as being an opportunity to save an enormous number of lives,” he said. “This year, and other years in the past, there will be 480,000 deaths associated with smoking tobacco in the United States.”

Levitan also added that 33,800 individuals younger than the age of 18 smoke their fist cigarette.

“There more that we can do to prevent the young people from gaining access to these types of equipment will be a profound influence on the community at large and also to our children and their children,” said Levitan.

Shoreview resident Susan Relling presented a box full of flavored vape products that she confiscated from her children.

“My boys are both addicted to nicotine because of these products,” she said.

Relling also said that her children have moved onto using vape products that contain THC, which is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.

“It is just very concerning to me that my children have such easy access to this,” she said.

Mounds View resident and Midwest Vapers owner Ryan Wolfe said an ordinance restricting the sale of flavored vape products is hypocritical.  

“You can walk into any liquor store in New Brighton and purchase sour apple this and that or blackberry whatnot and even sample booze at no charge and nobody even bats and eye,” said Wolfe. “They send you on the road after sampling liquor. I don’t understand that.”    

Wolfe said the restrictions would also put Midwest Vapers out of business.

“The only thing a complete flavor ban would accomplish is push the tax revenue to a neighboring city and force customers to shop elsewhere,” he said. “Not to mention shutting down a respectable and responsible service-oriented small business and putting five people out of work.”

Lastly, Wolfe added that flavored tobacco products help traditional smokers knock the addiction.

“Over the past six years we have seen countless customers use the products we sell to transition from traditional, combustible cigarettes to vaping to finally being able to quit all together,” he said. “That is the most gratifying part of what we do.”    

The council has yet to make an official decision.

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