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Arden Hills tobacco shop sues city over flavored tobacco ban

Updated: September 13, 2019 10:14 PM

An Arden Hills tobacco shop is suing the city over a new rule aimed at restricting the sale of flavored products.

This summer, city council members voted to raise the minimum purchase age of tobacco to 21 and also to ban the sale of any flavored tobacco products.

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The new ordinance does not contain any exemptions for the single tobacco store in town that serves only adult customers.

Maher Safy is a manager at Arden Hills Tobacco. He predicts the new rule could seriously hurt the company's bottom line because a majority of their products contain some type of flavor additive.

"This will be a significant hit and we might lose the business," Safy said.

The lawsuit argues the ordinance is unconstitutional and unfairly targets the store.

City officials declined to comment for this story, citing pending litigation.

Safy said while e-cigarettes have grown in popularity, customers still buy traditional tobacco products that are flavored with menthol often.

Attorney John Ella said the purpose of the ordinance is to protect children and young adults but argues the "21 Rule" accomplishes that.

House votes to raise Minnesota tobacco age to 21

"We think it should be more like a liquor store, where if you're 21 or older, you can buy flavored vodka or non-flavored vodka, but you just have to be 21," Ella said.

Health advocates blame flavored products in part for the rise in underage e-cigarette use and this week, the Trump administration announced it wants to remove from market all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco.

Trump to propose ban on flavorings used in e-cigarettes

Susan Sindt with the Midwest Vapor Coalition isn't opposed to that idea.

"We are very concerned about access to youth," Sindt said. "It is perhaps a good idea to remove flavored vapor products and exempt the adults-only establishments."

But Sindt and Safy said there should be an exemption for the shop.

"Adults should be able to come into a shop and make a choice for themselves," Safy said.

According to the lawsuit, the city gave Arden Hills Tobacco until Dec. 31 to remove flavored products from their shelves.

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Kirsten Swanson

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