St. Paul leaders emphasized Wednesday that they want to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco, but opted to hold off for a month to work with affected business owners.

Community groups and health organizations spurred the City Council to consider restrictions on menthol tobacco products, as well as mint- and wintergreen-flavored tobacco. The city already restricts fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products.

The proposed regulations would allow only specialty tobacco shops — not other retailers like gas stations — to sell menthol tobacco products. Council Member Dan Bostrom proposed they go further and ban menthol tobacco sales at all retailers, but it was unclear Wednesday whether that proposal could gain enough council support to pass.

The emotional debate over restrictions has pitted health and neighborhood advocates against retailers.

Supporters of the change brought photos of family members killed by lung cancer to Wednesday’s public hearing and held them up for council members to see.

Meanwhile, gas station and convenience store owners and workers threw their keys down at public hearings, saying they could lose their businesses or jobs.

“These are the keys to my store, you are taking it from me,” Todd Knudten, who owns Capitol City Station on Shepard Road, said last week.

Council members opted to hold off on the vote for a month as they look at ways to ease the transition for businesses.

“This change is inevitable,” Council Member Amy Brendmoen said, but it could be better with more input from retailers.