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Compromise at Capitol on e-cigarette regulations

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Minnesota lawmakers divided over how strictly to regulate electronic cigarettes settled on a bill that would keep them out of government buildings and schools but allow them in bars and restaurants.

MPR News reports the compromise measure that emerged from a House-Senate conference committee Tuesday does not subject e-cigarettes to the same law that applies to tobacco, as the Senate bill would have.

It does permit businesses and local governments to impose bans on indoor "vaping," MPR says. Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato tells the network she's disappointed a more restrictive approach did not come out of the conference committe, but is pleased with the partial ban.

“We almost got to the goal line but we didn’t score in terms of protecting the general public from the unknown exhaled chemicals of e-cigarettes,” Sheran said.

House members told the Associated Press they lacked the votes to pass a measure as strict as the Senate plan, which would have added electronic cigarettes to Minnesota's Clean Indoor Air Act that regulates tobacco smoke.

A representative of the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota, Cap O'Rourke, tells the AP "We're happy that businesses can continue to make their own decisions and we can wait until the science can show us definitive proof of their health effects."

E-cigarettes are battery powered and deliver users a vapor that contains a mix of nicotine and other chemicals. Some boosters of the product have portrayed it as a way for tobacco users to quit smoking. But a new study from the University of California-San Francisco found no evidence to support that and called e-cigs a gateway to nicotine for adolescents.

The conference committee's bill does outlaw the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. The National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 34 states have taken that step and offers a rundown of state regulations.

At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration has proposed an update of the country's laws regulating nicotine and tobacco products but there's no timetable for implementing changes.

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