Starting in February, vaping products and e-cigarettes will no longer be sold at stores in St. Louis Park.
The City Council voted 6-1 on Monday to prohibit the sale of vaping products, a step that city staffers said no other Minnesota community has taken.
Last year St. Louis Park banned the sale of flavored tobacco, and in 2017 the city raised the legal age to buy tobacco and tobacco products to 21.
"The biggest reason that I support this ordinance is that I want us to contribute to the momentum that's growing state- and nationwide for restricting access to tobacco and nicotine products," said Council Member Margaret Rog. "I hope this is one small step today in an ongoing, wide-ranging effort to restrict access."
Council Member Larry Kraft cast the only dissenting vote. He said that while he was concerned about the number of young people vaping, he felt the ordinance was an open-ended ban that got ahead of federal regulations.
Kraft also pushed back at the idea that the ban comes in response to the immediate health threat of vaping products, because many of the lung injuries linked to e-cigarette use and vaping have been linked to vitamin E acetate, a chemical used as a vape cartridge additive sold on the black market.
Cap O'Rourke, president of the Midwest Vapor Coalition, said St. Louis Park's action is a response to concerns about illegal THC products rather than legal, regulated products. The coalition advocates for business owners who sell, manufacture or distribute vapor products.
"What is even more disappointing is that adult smokers in St. Louis Park no longer have the most-used option for adults in Minnesota looking to quit [smoking]. Now the only products will be cigarettes," O'Rourke said in a statement. "[The] action was a win for Big Tobacco, as only their products remain."
Several council members said they sympathized with local businesses that would be affected by the ban and acknowledged the ordinance wouldn't be a cure-all.
"We make a lot of decisions based on imperfect information, unfortunately," said Council Member Tim Brausen, adding that he wanted to take early action on any issue that might present a public health risk. "I realize that prohibitions don't always work. There will be holes in this and ways for people to acquire these products, but anything we can do to slow the growth of it, I'm in favor of."
Council Member Anne Mavity said she'd support revisiting the ordinance once the Food and Drug Administration provides more of a regulatory framework surrounding vape products and e-cigarettes. She said she recognized the city was pushing "a little further than where our lane is in order to ensure the safety of our residents."
Mayor Jake Spano, who quit smoking less than a year ago, agreed. His hope, he said, is that the ban allows the city to restrict the growth of any vaping-related problems in the city and prompts other communities to have similar conversations.
Ensuring the success of the measure will require more community education and ongoing relationships with the schools to address teen vaping, said Council Member Nadia Mohamed. "Otherwise it's just words on a piece of paper," she said.
At the council meeting, Kristen Ackert of the Association for Nonsmokers-Minnesota called the ban "a huge step in addressing the youth vaping epidemic."
"Thank you for your leadership," she told council members. "We need it now."
Mara Klecker • 612-673-4440