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Bloomington begins phasing out tobacco licenses for businesses

Business owner says Bloomington's flavored tobacco ban goes too far
Business owner says Bloomington's flavored tobacco ban goes too far 01:55

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- The city of Bloomington is taking more steps to end tobacco sales. Starting Thursday, the city will begin phasing out tobacco licenses.

It means when a store with a tobacco license closes, the license will expire and not be replaced. It's the first such ordinance in the state.

Eventually, the city expects there will be no tobacco retailers.

The move is one of two the city has taken to curb tobacco sales in 2022. At the year's start, the city banned the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

Public health leaders say the moves are in attempt to reduce the number of teens trying tobacco for the first time.

"The lower the density of tobacco retailers and the reduced amount of marketing kids see as a significant impact on their willingness to start or try tobacco," said Nick Kelley, Bloomington's Assistant Public Health Administrator.

Kelley says a 2019 survey showed 1/6 11th graders admitted having used tobacco within the last 30 days.

"Tobacco is one of our leading causes of preventable death. There's a clear public health responsibility to do everything we can to prevent those deaths from occurring," Kelley said.

The City of Bloomington has roughly 50 remaining licensed tobacco retailers, Kelley estimates.

One such retailer is Oxboro Tobacco, where manager Mohammed Alhataba says the new rules have crippled his business.

"With the new laws, you don't have anything to sell," Alhataba said. "It's frustrating because you don't know what will happen and you know

this will affect your business. We have family to feed. I don't know what my future will be. It's very tough."

Alhataba says between 70 to 80 percent of his sales prior to 2022 were for flavored tobacco products.

"Tobacco is one of the leading causes of death in the country, and it's preventable," Kelley said. "We know that 95 percent of tobacco users start their use before the age of 21."

Bloomington was one of the first in the state to raise the age to buy tobacco to 21, and the first city to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants in 2004.

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