North Mankato latest city to look at e-cig regulations; state rule proposed


North Mankato will consider becoming the latest Minnesota city to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes at a Tuesday night hearing, the Mankato Free Press reports.

At the same time, some lawmakers are gearing up for a push to subject the nicotine vapors to the same restrictions that apply to tobacco smoke under Minnesota's Clean Indoor Air Act.

WCCO reports Rep. Phyllis Kahn's bill would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes indoors in public places. Electronic cigarettes have surged in popularity. Supporters, such as a shop owner who spoke to WCCO, say they're a tool to help smokers quit the habit. But Kahn tells the station she's concerned they're being marketed to kids and thinks they should be subject to the same regulations as tobacco.

Kahn is a Minneapolis DFLer who helped write the state's Clean Indoor Air Act nearly 40 years ago. She announced in November her plan for a bill to include e-cigarettes in the legislation, saying a patchwork system is developing as local governments establish their own rules.

DFLer Kathy Sheran of Mankato – one of the cities that has regulated e-cigs – is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate.

MinnPost reported last week that two dozen cities and counties have passed restrictions. In addition, Metro Transit prohibits use of e-cigarettes on Twin Cities buses and the Minnesota Twins have banned vaping at Target Field.

Definitive knowledge about the health risks of e-cigs remains scarce, though. MinnPost says some research suggests the nicotine vapors delivered by electronic cigarettes are free of the carcinogens contained in tobacco smoke.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota are among those working on answering the questions about e-cigarettes.

One thing that's clear, though, is the growth of the industry. Bloomberg says sales may reach $1.5 billion this year and are poised to surpass those of conventional cigarettes within a decade.

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