Lauderdale puts hold on new tobacco licenses

By Anne Holzman

Citing changes in federal and state laws coupled with developments in tobacco products on the market, the Lauderdale City Council recently adopted a one-year moratorium on new tobacco sales licenses.

At its Jan. 28 meeting, with a quorum of three, the Council unanimously adopted the interim ordinance, which can only be in effect for a year without going through public hearings and votes required to make permanent changes to city law. If no changes are made during that year, the licensing process will resume in January 2021 under the existing rules.

City administrator Heather Butkowski said two businesses, apparently unaware of each other, have recently requested permits to establish tobacco shops in Lauderdale. She advised the council to delay considering those permit requests until the city can catch up with the change in federal law, which might affect distinctions in the code between tobacco shops and convenience stores.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed the legal age for tobacco use from 18 to 21 in a bill signed into law last Dec. 20, effective immediately. Minnesota already had some age-based restrictions in place, as did many municipalities including Lauderdale.

Butkowski said the electronic cigarette (“vaping”) industry also continues to evolve. For example, the industry is demanding rules about such distinctions as flavors that may or may not be sold.

“It’s incredibly complicated,” she told the council.

Butkowski recommended that the council schedule presentations by concerned groups, including health and consumer groups as well as businesses that might lose revenue under the rule changes. After those hearings, the city staff will then recommend whether to change the licensing rules.

Anne Holzman, a former St. Anthony Park resident, is a regular contributor to the Bugle.

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