Why did the Minneapolis City Council rush to pass an ordinance to eliminate flavored tobacco sales at convenience stores? With little or no input from retailers, it has crafted a solution that does nothing to eliminate underage tobacco use.
As a parent, I wholeheartedly agree that we do not want children under 18 purchasing tobacco products. And as a responsible business owner, I agree we must do everything we can to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of children.
The problem with the City Council’s solution is it doesn’t eliminate the products; it shifts the products out of the hands of responsible retailers and exclusively to a small number of tobacco-only stores throughout our city. Rather than allowing only a handful of stores to sell the products, why not come up with a solution that prevents underage purchasing?
Here are a few facts that the council should have considered before banning responsible retailers from selling tobacco products with flavors and massively increasing the price of most cigars:
The overwhelming majority of Minnesota tobacco retailers would never sell tobacco products to minors. Federal compliance data shows a passage rate on inspections of more than 92 percent. That is No. 1 in the country!
Additionally, a recent study from the Journal of School Health highlights that retailers are not the primary or even the secondary source of tobacco products to minors.
But retailers still must lead the way. The time has come to require all tobacco retailers to install verification procedures that will prevent transactions without proper identification. This ensures responsible stores will never fail a sting operation and will never sell to minors because of this new technology. If they do fail, they should lose the ability to sell those flavored products. Retailers have the technology to enforce tougher rules. Let’s use it.
This will reduce underage consumption with an honest solution that works. The current plan simply shifts the products to tobacco-only stores or to neighboring cities. Minneapolis retailers can and should be part of the solution in stopping underage sales.
Steve Williams is owner, Bobby and Steve’s Auto World.