CLEVELAND (WJW) – The sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, could be banned in Cleveland if city council passes a proposal expected to be introduced on Monday. 

The Cleveland Department of Public Health says the law is necessary to decrease smoking rates in Cleveland and save lives.

According to the city’s health director, Dr. David Margolius, Cleveland has the highest smoking rate in the country. 

He says 35% of adults in the city smoke, when the national average is only 12%, and passing new restrictions would save lives and prevent children from starting the habit.

“This would prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products,” said Dr. Margolius.

He is proposing legislation that he says could save thousands of lives.

“The life expectancy for the residents of Cleveland, as many of us know, is about 10 to 20 years shorter than it is just in the inner ring suburbs, so if you look at, like, the Buckeye neighborhood, life expectancy is 65. Move over to Beachwood and it’s in the 80s,” Dr. Margolius said.

The Cleveland Department of Public Health will introduce a bill, asking city council to consider banning the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products.

“Flavored products were developed by big tobacco to target most specifically our minority populations in Cleveland, so if you look at people who are Black who smoke, nine out of 10 smoke menthol products and that’s not by accident, that’s by design. For Latino folks who smoke, most smoke menthol cigarettes,” said the city health director.

The proposed law would also require retailers that sell tobacco products to get a license.  It would not be illegal for a person to smoke the cigarettes, but it bans stores from selling them in the city.

“If they ban it and we’re not selling it no more, it’s going to hurt the business because I would say 70% of people smoke the menthol,” said Ala Hamdan, who owns a Convenient Mart on St. Clair Avenue in Cleveland.

“How much of a hit would your business take?” FOX 8’s Kevin Freeman asked.

“I would say 50% because the people that smoke the menthol, they also come for something else. Beer, wine, chicken,” Hamdan said.

“Hey, you can’t make a person stop, so they’re still going to still smoke. I just went and bought me a pack,” said customer Chris Carter.

“This is an opportunity within just a few years to increase the life expectancy and quality of life for all of our residents,” said Dr. Margolius.

FOX 8 spoke with Cleveland City Council president Blaine Griffin. He says he wants to hear more about the proposal and the impact it would have before making a decision on whether or not to support it.

It will be introduced on Monday, but it would probably not be heard by the council’s health committee until at least April.