Stop Tobacco Ban in Robbinsdale

Full Disclosure: I’ve never smoked tobacco in my life.  And, I personally don’t like candy or sweets.

An outside organization, Association of Non Smokers of Minnesota (ANSRMN), has come to Robbinsdale to push additional tobacco restrictions in our City.  Unsurprisingly, ANSRMN is a tobacco industry funded, fully staffed prohibition organization.  They gave a presentation to Robbinsdale City Council at a work session in mid-June and the City Council has since requested assistance from the Public Health Law Center presumably to write ANSRMN’s requested ordinance changes.  This despite the fact that as a country, we have begun discussion to move away from criminalization and toward compassion solutions for tobacco use. The push for further bans in Robbinsdale is not a matter of whether tobacco is bad or not, but what is the appropriate response of our community that reflects our values. With the stroke and click of five individuals can forever change the lives of our neighbors. Creating crimes out of thin air literally creates criminals where none previously existed at all.

What’s being proposed in Robbinsdale?

In short, these are the “restrictions” that ANSRMN wants Robbinsdale’s City Council to pass:

  • Set the minimum price of cigars to $2.60 (the cheapest is around $0.90 or so)
  • Ban sweet, candy-flavored tobacco from corners shops and convenience stores
  • Ban 18-21 years from purchasing tobacco in the future
  • Ban the sale of tobacco/drug paraphernalia and only allow in adult-only shops

Violations of these, by minors or adults, according to Robbinsdale’s current Tobacco ordinance would be a misdemeanor – 90 days in jail or $1,000 fine or both – under state criminal code. This would be in addition to administrative fines accessed by the City.  That’s what criminalization would entail.  Kids paying $1,000 fines.  Is that really how we want to deal with this issue?

Tell your councilman & mayor you oppose this approach!

There are meetings with retailers and a public hearing being planned for September 2017.  Email the mayor and your ward councilman now.

Email both the mayor and your respective ward councilman at the same time and be explicit in letting them know you are against further tobacco restrictions/bans in Robbinsdale. Feel free to explain your reasons.

Mayor – Regan Murphy  736-257-0368
Ward 1 Councilman – Bill Blonigan    763-537-7776
Ward 2 Councilman – Dan Rogan   763-533-6874
Ward 3 Councilman – George Selman   763-533-2661
Ward 4 Councilman – Pat Backen    763-439-6454

Confirm the ward (a.k.a. “precinct”) you live in using this map or on the Secretary Of State’s website.

Criminalization is not the answer, let’s find a more compassionate solution.

Check back often, as I’ll be posting more information soon on this topic as I find out about them.  Comment below with additional thoughts on why criminalizing is not the best approach for our city.


Health Policy Through Jailtime?!

We have known about the harmful side effects of tobacco for decades. There was not a grand revelation that smoking recently got worse for everyone. It was bad for your health before. It is bad now. Nothing changed.

Well, that was before the Association of Non Smokers of Minnesota (ANSRMN) descended upon Robbinsdale. They want to take a legal product and make it illegal. They want to make it so that adults aged 18 to 21 would potentially be fined up to $1,000 or end up in jail for having a bad habit.

This heartless law pushed by the people at ANSRMN could have life-altering implications for young people trying access a product that is currently legal. 18 to 21-year-olds are either students or just getting started in their careers. How would they be able to face a $1,000 fine? Or jail time?  Imagine yourself at that age.  Even if no fines or jail is given, imagine the stress and worry at that age about having to take time off your entry-level job to go to court, pay court fees, hire a lawyer, etc. Will your boss understand? Will you be able to keep your job?  Would your job be flexible enough? How will the lost pay affect your upcoming bills?

And for what? Nothing changed about smoking. It is a bad habit. That doesn’t mean it should be illegal.  How does compounding health issues with legal issues help anyone?

Drinking pop or coffee is a bad habit for your dental health. Does that mean that the American Dental Association should push a ban on sugared drinks?  In fact, like cigarettes, alcohol is also known to cause cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues.  Yet no one in their right mind would advocate we return to the Prohibition Era.  Quite the opposite, as the 2017 change in Sunday Sales shows that we continue to move away from prohibitionist solutions to addiction and substance abuse.

There is no reason to ban tobacco from convenience stores in Robbinsdale that will justify a 20-year-old facing jail time or a $1,000 fine. These laws have real effects on  people – our neighbors.

Contact your council member or Mayor Murphy and let them know that this tobacco ban is bad for Robbinsdale.


Respect Young Adult rights!

Today, any 20 year old adult can walk into a Robbinsdale convenience store and buy a pack of cigarettes before heading to work or after a long day of studying as they work towards their degree. If the Association of Non Smokers of Minnesota (ANSRMN) has their way, that same 20 year old could potentially face $1000 in fines or even jail time for buying that pack of cigarettes – this is a terrible thing to impose on our young people.

18 to 21-year-old people are adults. They have the capacity to make decisions for themselves and they do so every day. They make the decisions on where to work, what to eat, and whether they want to smoke.  These are young adults just starting out in life and just trying to make their way in the world.  The last thing they need is to be treated like children with a habit police breathing down their necks and the serious legal ramifications of these types of laws.

The people at ANSRMN believe that 18 to 21-year-olds are children, incapable of making personal health decisions. Because most 18 to 21-year-olds are beyond being lectured by their parents about their health decisions, ANSRMN wants to recruit the government to step in and quash the rights of legal adults to get a legal product.

Because the ANSRMN also doesn’t trust anyone over the age of 21 to make health decisions either, they made this list of demands of your elected officials in Robbinsdale:

  • Raise the minimum price of cigars to $2.60 from the free market’s price of $0.90
  • Ban the sale of sweet or candy-flavored tobacco
  • Ban the sale of all other tobacco  from convenience stores and only allow the sale in adult-only (21+) tobacco shops.

The people from the ANSRMN want to control the personal decisions of adults and they are trying to use the government of Robbinsdale to force their lifestyle on everyone. Don’t let them.

Contact your City Councilman and tell them to let young adults make decisions for themselves.

















Tobacco Criminalization Is The Worst Solution

Tobacco use is a personal habit. Regardless of whether one thinks it’s good or bad, criminalizing people’s personal habits is the worst way to address the habit itself. In Robbinsdale’s case, we’re talking misdemeanors which include 90-days in jail or $1,000 fine or both PLUS administrative fines.

Many of us are well aware of the devastating, unintended human consequences of alcohol prohibition and the now failing war on drugs. Recognizing those human consequences drove the repeal of alcohol prohibition and is now driving the decriminalization of marijuana. Today even our very own Mayor enjoys the benefit of repealed alcohol prohibition, as do many good people.

Less well known and studied is the human impact of criminalizing tobacco use – enforcement rates, arrest rates, incarceration rates, post-incarceration life. However, the most famous incident being the tragic death of Eric Garner, who died during an arrest for selling cigarettes due to laws similar to the ones ANSRMN is pushing our City Council to consider, has been a stark reminder to many of us that bad laws hurt people and we need to find more compassionate solutions to address addiction while acknowledging that there’s a natural range of human use – from none (like me) to infrequent to medicinal to recreational to addiction.

Today a 19-year old adult can buy cigarettes, then all of a sudden tomorrow they can’t? Coupled with the knowledge that smokers have a very hard time quitting smoking, the unintended consequence of a tobacco ban in Robbinsdale is that this 19-year old person in our community will likely turn to the black market to buy their cigarette, where “more than one in three cigarettes smoked in Minnesota” were trafficked from surrounding states.  In other words, young adults engaging in the black market would not have the same recourse if they are robbed or cheated as they currently do in the open market. Can’t suddenly quit cigarettes. Can’t buy openly buy it either. What is a young person to do?  Is this a risk we as a community is willing to take of potentially pushing this young adult into the black market?

Surely, we in the Robbinsdale community can come up with more compassionate solutions to smoking, such as cessation programs for abuse/addition, much like we deal with caffeine addiction and alcoholism without demonizing people.

Check back often for more information.  Be sure to email the mayor and councilman to let them know you oppose additional tobacco restrictions in Robbinsdale.

Robbinsdale Current Tobacco Laws

Current Tobacco restrictions in the City of Robbinsdale is imposed under City Code Chapter 11, Section 1132. Reading the gory, 4-page details leaves more questions than answers, including.

  • How many children who have violated the City Tobacco code have been charged with misdemeanors?
  • Of those children charged with Tobacco misdemeanor, how many have been jailed and fined? What is their quality of life post incarceration?
  • How many adults who have violated the City Tobacco code have been charged with misdemeanors?  Of those adults, how many fall in the 18-21 group being targeted for prohibition? What is the incarceration and fine rate?  What is their quality of life post incarceration?
  • In Robbinsdale, at what rate are children being sold Tobacco products by adults?  Is the rate the same as in other cities that warrants City Council copying their criminalization strategy?  Or, is the Robbinsdale rate different enough that we should perhaps design our own strategy?

It is illegal in Robbinsdale for minors (anyone under 18-years of age) to purchase or use Tobacco or use a fake ID to purchase Tobacco.  In addition, it is illegal for adults (anyone 18-years or older) to sell or give Tobacco products to minors under city law.  Anyone violating these or any other part of Section 1132 “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”   A misdemeanor carries a 90-day jail sentence and/or $1,000 fine and/or both, and would be in addition to an administrative city fines up to $1,000 per incident.  As far as I understand, this is potentially in addition to the jail time and fines under State law.

Searching the crime map and statistics tool on the Robbinsdale Police Department’s page, there were no arrests – adults nor minors – for selling tobacco to minors under either MN Stat. 609.685 or Robbinsdale’s City Code Section 1132 within the last 12 months.  Which means either the City has had no minor-related tobacco violations or the City is not enforcing current law.

Check back often, as I’ll be posting more information soon on this topic as I find out about them.  Comment below with additional thoughts on why criminalizing is not the best approach for our city.