Minneapolis moves closer to indoor ban on e-cigarettes

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The city of Minneapolis moved a step closer Monday to banning the use of electronic cigarettes in all indoor public places and places of employment in the city.

A City Council committee voted 6-0 in support of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit e-cigarettes in restaurants, offices and other public spaces, the Star Tribune reports.

The provisions are stricter than those approved by the Legislature earlier this year when it changed state law to ban e-cigarette usage in schools, hospitals and public university campuses. The law allows cities to enact tougher restrictions on e-cigarette usage.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver users a vapor that contains a mix of nicotine and other chemicals. The liquid nicotine comes in different flavors that critics claim is a way to introduce the product to children and teenagers.

About two dozen people testified before the committee Monday on both sides of the question. Health advocates, including Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, urged the city to enact the restrictions.

He said right now there's a "wild west" approach to e-cigarettes that is concerning to him, the Southwest Journal reports.

“Tobacco companies are using old and well-tested marketing techniques to introduce children to a new product that delivers nicotine and potentially leads to the burden of addiction," Ehlinger said. "We need to take a hard look at what actions we can take at local and state levels to stop this trend.”

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.

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the federal government, although the Food and Drug Administration is proposing new rules that would treat them more like traditional tobacco products.

The full City Council must approve the measure before it becomes official; the vote is scheduled for Dec. 5.

The Association for Nonsmokers Minnesota says 10 cities in the state have passed e-cigarette bans, including Edina, Mankato and Duluth. Hennepin County also has restricted their use on county property.

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