I am a second year medical student at the University of Minnesota Medical School. As a future physician, I’m alarmed to see that members of St. Paul’s City Council are considering putting profits over lives.
St. Paul is considering an ordinance that would include menthol flavored tobacco products in the city’s existing flavor regulations. This groundbreaking policy would set our city apart when it comes to tackling health inequities that result from tobacco-related diseases. Unfortunately, the tobacco industry is using money and scare tactics to try to defeat the measure.
We know that African American communities take on a disproportionate burden from the harms of tobacco. That’s no accident. It’s the result of decades of ruthless targeted marketing. We heard over and over at the public hearings what the outcomes of tobacco addiction has meant for this community: countless loved ones, dear friends and neighbors taken too soon by tobacco.
Keeping menthol tobacco out of the hands of young people, especially vulnerable groups more heavily burdened by tobacco, should be our number one priority in moving towards a tobacco-free generation. But the tobacco industry is busy behind the scenes trying to scare our city council members into voting no on this life saving policy. I hope that St. Paul’s City Council members put the health of our neighbors above the tobacco industry’s profits and vote to include menthol in the city’s flavored tobacco ordinance.
This letter has been edited for clarity and style.
David Bergstrand is a second year student in the University of Minnesota Medical School.