E-cigarettes will be treated the same as conventional ones in the city of St. Anthony.
That means no puffing on e-cigs — also known as vaping — in restaurants, bars or anywhere conventional cigarettes are prohibited.
The City Council recently passed an ordinance that regulates electronic cigarettes under the Minnesota Clean Air Act, which bans smoking in public places.
Like many cities, St. Anthony has wrestled with how to handle this new way of smoking.
Last fall, many city councils passed moratoriums on e-cig shops, then waited for the Legislature to act. Legislators did ban e-cigarette use in some public places, including government buildings, public schools, licensed day cares and most health care facilities, but stopped short of treating them like conventional cigarettes.
Now city councils are again taking up the issue. St. Anthony city staffers recommended that e-cigs be treated the same as conventional cigarettes to preserve public health, protect young people and prevent enforcement confusion.
"It keeps it simple for all of us," Mayor Jerry Faust said before the 4-0 vote.
The health implications of vaping e-cigs are still unknown but "better to be safe than sorry," Faust said.
In August, the Edina City Council also passed an ordinance treating e-cigs the same as conventional cigarettes.
Any enforcement of the ordinance is done on a complaint basis, said Edina Community Health Administrator Jeff Brown.
Duluth and Mankato were two of the first Minnesota cities to ban e-cig use in public places. Some businesses, including the Mall of America and Target Field, have also prohibited the use of e-cigarettes.
A global controversy
E-cigarette use has been linked to future conventional cigarette use, according to a 2013 study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
More than 250,000 young people who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, according to the CDC study. That is up from about 79,000 in 2011. Among nonsmoking youth who had ever used e-cigarettes, 43.9 percent said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year, compared with 21.5 percent of those who had never used e-cigarettes.
Proponents of vaping say it's cleaner, safer and less intrusive than conventional smoking and can be used to help people quit smoking conventional cigarettes. Others say much more needs to be learned about their health effects.
Last week, the World Health Organization urged governments to pass tougher rules for electronic cigarettes — banning their indoor use and keeping them out of the hands of children and teens — until more evidence can be gathered about their risks.