- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) - The city of Brooklyn Center has adopted an ordinance that will raise the price of sweet-tasting cigars known as “little cigars,” in hopes of deterring young people from using them.

Little cigars typically sell for less than $1. The ordinance that takes effect June 7 raises the price to at least $2.10 each if they are sold in packs of less than five.

The Star Tribune reported Friday (http://strib.mn/RHPpK6 ) Brooklyn Center is the first city in Minnesota to adopt an ordinance to reduce the use of little cigars, according to Emily Anderson of the Association of Nonsmokers-Minnesota. Cities in other states have similar ordinances.

The city council approved the tobacco rules unanimously after the 2013 Minnesota Student Survey showed about 37 percent of 12th-grade boys and 20 percent of 11th-grade boys at Brooklyn Center High School had reported smoking little cigars.

“We believe more Brooklyn Center youth are using little cigars, because of the low price, as a substitute for cigarettes that cost $7 or $8 a pack,” said City Council Member Dan Ryan. Little cigars are “aggressively marketed to youth in a variety of flavors,” he said.

Mike Wazwaz, owner of the Royal Tobacco shop, said the increase will send his customers elsewhere and cost him revenue. He said little cigars account for about 15 percent of his annual sales of more than $2 million.

“For me it is just a tax on poor people,” he said. “They are the ones that buy one or two at a time.”

Wazwaz said he doesn’t sell to minors, and if youth smoking is a concern, city officials should raise the age for sales to 21.

“We don’t want kids to smoke, either,” he said. “But if they are over 18, they can buy it.”

Wazwaz said the National Association of Tobacco Outlets and his attorneys are considering legal action to block the ordinance.

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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