The Ramsey County Board is nearing approval of new restrictions on e-cigarette use, after a public hearing last week produced emphatic support.
“This is not just water vapor,” Dr. Thomas Kottke, a cardiologist and senior figure at HealthPartners, told commissioners. “There are particles, including heavy metals and other compounds. People deserve to be free from exposure to e-vapor.”
The board is scheduled to act on the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance on Sept. 22. If approved, the ordinance would take effect Nov. 15.
The law would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes where people can’t smoke conventional cigarettes under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.
It also prohibits smoking and vaping within 25 feet of a building entrance, open window or ventilation intake. Exceptions are made for some outdoor dining areas and for those merely passing through a prohibited zone.
Minneapolis banned the use of e-cigarettes in indoor public places in December 2014. That action was followed a few months later by a similar ban throughout Hennepin County.
But St. Paul hasn’t enacted a ban on the indoor use of e-cigarettes, despite restricting their use and sale to adults in 2013. The only Ramsey County city that doesn’t allow the use of e-cigarettes in public indoor spaces is St. Anthony, half of which is in Hennepin County.
At last week’s hearing, Maplewood Mayor Nora Slawik stressed the sheer efficiency of an e-cigarette ban on a countywide basis vs. a city-by-city approach.
Although her city last spring did take measures to regulate vaping, she said, “Maplewood along with other Ramsey County cities would like to see the county act, to relieve us of the need to pass and enforce our own separate ordinances, which takes staff time.”
The public hearing on Sept. 8 yielded no dissenting testimony to a proposal that has been brewing in public form since March.
E-cigarette sales have been galloping higher recently, routinely doubling and even tripling from one year to the next.
Betsy Brock, research director for the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota, urged commissioners not to believe that e-cigarettes are a means of quitting smoking, as some have argued.
“They cannot be promoted as cessation devices,” she said, “and while many users testify that they do help them quit, and some officials are sympathetic, e-cigarettes absolutely affect nonsmokers and children and should be regulated.”