The City of Minneapolis recently passed an ordinance restricting the sale of menthol tobacco to adult-only tobacco shops. The City Council recognized the danger that menthol tobacco poses to young people and passed an ordinance that will protect them. I applaud their leadership.
As a student pursuing my master’s degree in the School of Public Health, I believe our leaders should work to create healthy environments for all young people to thrive. That includes regulating the sale of menthol tobacco so that it is no longer sold in stores where kids shop.
Menthol tobacco makes it easier for young people to start smoking because menthol masks the harshness of the smoke. The tobacco industry knows it needs to attract young people to their products because 90 percent of smokers start before they turn 18 years old. To protect their bottom line, the tobacco industry relies on menthol tobacco to attract new, young users.
I saw this firsthand because I grew up playing hockey — a sport where use of menthol dip was all too common. Menthol made chewing tobacco easier because it tasted better. Most of the guys on the team chewed. It wasn’t hard for minors to get because it was sold at every convenience and corner store in town.
Thankfully, the City of Saint Paul has also proposed an ordinance that will limit sales of menthol tobacco to adult-only tobacco shops. I am glad to live in the Twin Cities where leaders aren’t afraid to take a stand against the tobacco industry in order to protect the health of young people.
This letter has been lightly edited for grammar and style.
Chris Gracheck is a University of Minnesota student in the School of Public Health.