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Mpls. City Council Passes Ordinance Restricting Menthol Sales

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday to limit where people can buy menthol tobacco.

By a vote of 10-2, the council passed an amendment to a tobacco ordinance restricting sales of menthol cigarettes to tobacco stores and 21+ establishments.

Supporters argued menthol products target young people. Opponents said the ordinance could hurt small businesses in the city.

The two votes against the amendment came from council members who represent the city's north side.

The ordinance goes into effect immediately, but enforcement won't begin until Aug. 1, 2018.

NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center's LaTrisha Vetaw was happy to see the heightened restrictions.

"There are people dying from things like heart disease and cancer," Vetaw said. "All related to cancer."

Right now, more than 300 stores sell menthol cigarettes across the city. When the ban starts next August, that number will drop to fewer than 50.

Convenience store owner Ahmad Al-Hawwari says 70 percent of his tobacco sales at Penn-Wood in North Minneapolis come from menthol products.

"It is going to create a huge economic devastation for the corner stores," Al-Hawwari said.

The city council said some resources and guidance will be available for business owners that fear going out of business when the ban takes effect.

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