Where there's smoke, there's e-cigs: retailers fire up new stores

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The number of retailers selling electronic cigarettes is growing rapidly.

The Star Tribune reported Anoka County has the highest concentration of retailers selling the devices, with five stores in Blaine, three in Coon Rapids, two in Anoka, one in Ramsey and one in Fridley. Woodbury, Hopkins and Shakopee have issued licenses for e-cig stores. The newspaper account said that city staffers estimate that there are four or five shops in Minneapolis that sell e-cigarettes, and St. Paul city staffers said they know of three new e-cig stores.

There are few regulations for retailers who want to get into the business to follow. In most Minnesota cities, they only need a license and storefront. That has prompted action by some municipalities; Hopkins passed a yearlong moratorium on additional e-cigarette rooms after its first opened this fall.

Because the devices don’t contain tobacco, they don’t fall under the state’s clean-air act, meaning individual bars, restaurants and retailers set their own rules about "vaping." This week, Bloomberg reported that the growing popularity of e-cigs is forcing companies them to review their smoking policies. Many companies do not have rules prohibiting the practice in the workplace. The story cited web developer Adam Gray, 27, who has his boss’s approval to use e-cigs at his desk in his Minnetonka office.

“It makes him more productive and sets him on a path for better health,” said Paul Hanson, chief operating officer of TrackIF LLC, a firm that monitors price changes across the Web.

Hennepin County already bans the use of e-cigarettes on county property. Earlier this month, MPR reported that State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis plans to sponsor a law in the next session that would prohibit the use of the e-cigarettes in public places. Her bill would amend the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act to include e-cigarettes in its definition of smoking. Kahn said a state law would bring more consistency than the multiple regulations implemented by local governments.

New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah have already imposed e-cigarette bans.

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