Protect our communities from flavored tobacco products

 

Letter to the Editor

Did you know that tobacco use is the leading cause of death and disease in Minneapolis? Local residents have an opportunity to stand up to big tobacco and protect our children. The Minneapolis City Council is considering changes to the city’s tobacco ordinance to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products (other than menthol) to adult-only tobacco stores and set a minimum price for cigars.

Cigarettes containing flavors other than menthol can no longer be sold in America. Tobacco products such as little cigars, cigarillos, chew, e-cigarettes, and others are still sold in candy flavors. More than 60 percent of the nearly 400 Minneapolis stores that sell tobacco offer flavored products.

We know who the tobacco industry is targeting with their marketing — my community. As an African American elder and anti-tobacco advocate, it is disheartening to see so many youth and young mothers, with children in tow, smoking one of these cancer-causing products, while appearing to be unaware of its deadly harm. Our neighborhoods are already impacted by social determinants of health that contributes to existing health disparities.

It’s important to protect our next generation from becoming addicted adults. These sweet flavors invite curious youth to try tobacco products, and they mask the harshness of tobacco. Youth mistakenly think that flavored tobacco products are safer than non-flavored tobacco. They are just as dangerous as cigarettes, with the same health risks of cancer and heart disease.

Take a stand! Call your city council representative to voice your support and make your voice heard at a public hearing on this proposal.

Asante Sana!

 

Ni Ora Hokes is a Minneapolis resident.