Smoking Showdown in Duluth Over E-Cigarettes

Posted at: 09/11/2013 6:16 PM
Updated at: 09/12/2013 7:46 AM
By: Beth McDonough

Despite their increasing popularity, city leaders in Duluth are trying to ban electronic cigarettes. 

It's not the first community to prohibit the devices, and it's creating a smoking showdown over where you can power up an e-cigarette in public.

The rules for e-cigarettes vary depending on where you go. Metro Transit now bans them on buses, trains, park-n-rides and rail stations. The decision came after riders raised concerns, "Getting complaints about e-cig use on buses or what's the difference between this and tobacco cigarette," said John Siqveland with Metro Transit.

Hennepin County emailed a letter to workers, updating its tobacco-free policy. E-cigarettes are banned at any county workplace, property or vehicle. The policy affects everyone, including employees and visitors. 

Target Field made the same call this season. Some colleges, universities, K-12 schools, along with several hospitals are also banning e-cigarettes.

Julee Moorlag is a tobacco intervention coordinator with Allina. She says, "Until we know more on their safety and what the long-term health risk might be to those using them and those breathing them I think it's better to push them away."

Because e-cigarettes aren't prohibited by the Clean Indoor Air Act, the Minneapolis Restaurant Association says e-cigarettes are allowed in its 1,700 eateries. "For our members, it simply isn't an issue, there's been no problem so far," said Dan McElroy with the Minnesota Restaurant Association.

Last year, Minnesota lawmakers banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. While they aren't approved by the FDA, the agency considers them to be a tobacco product because they contain small amounts of nicotine.