New rules won't thwart Duluth e-cigarette shop ownerDaniel Albrecht said his e-cigarette store isn’t leaving Duluth, in spite of restrictive ordinances on his product that take effect today.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Daniel Albrecht said his e-cigarette store isn’t leaving Duluth, in spite of restrictive ordinances on his product that take effect today.
“We’re staying strong; we’re not planning on moving anywhere,” said Albrecht, who with his brother, Mike, own E-Cig Empire in the Village Square Mall, one of two such businesses to open in the past month.
Two of the ordinances that the City Council passed last month — requiring a license to sell e-cigarettes and banning “sampling” of the products in stores — were similar to measures previously passed in other cities. But a third, which bans use of the e-cigarettes in the same places where traditional cigarettes already are banned, was the first such action in Minnesota.
Duluth is “once again leading the way with this forward-thinking policy,” said Pat McKone of the American Lung Association during a news conference on Tuesday supporting the measures.
Other Minnesota cities, including Cloquet and Rochester, have since passed similar ordinances, McKone said.
But Albrecht said Duluth passed the ordinance as a knee-jerk reaction, without studying the facts. Hermantown, which passed a six-month moratorium on sales of e-cigarettes to await further studies, took a more “mature” approach, he said.
“Duluth just threw up their hands and decided; you know, this is something new, we don’t like it, we’re going to ban it,” Albrecht said. “They didn’t do any research, and I’m sure they’re not planning on revisiting it any time soon.”
The main effect on his business, Albrecht said, is the sampling ban. His customers could sample the various e-cig flavors on Tuesday, but won’t be able to do so beginning today. He said that will frustrate his customers, the majority of whom prefer to sample.
“It’s a big part of our business,” Albrecht said. “No one wants to purchase something they’re not going to like.”
Although he couldn’t cite any studies, Albrecht said numerous customers have been able to quit smoking traditional cigarettes after starting to use e-cigarettes, in what is known as vaping. He himself switched from being a pack-a-day smoker of Marlboro Reds to exclusively vaping e-cigs, he said.
But Bridget Benson, a cessation counselor for Tobacco Free Services at Essentia Health, said that’s not what she has observed.
“None of us, none of the counselors there, have actually seen somebody using e-cigarettes actually quit smoking,” said Benson, who spoke at Tuesday’s news conference.
No research supports the contention that e-cigs help people quit smoking, Benson said. By contrast, nicotine patches, gum and lozenges have been shown to be effective, she said.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved those approaches as safe and effective, McKone said, but hasn’t approved e-cigs as a smoking alternative.
“E-cigarettes are an untested product that have not been proved to be a safe alternative to smoking,” McKone said.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user, according to data from the Food and Drug Administration.
Albrecht said he’d welcome an FDA ruling. In the meantime, he said, he makes printed copies available in his store of studies that he says show the vapor from e-cigs “is very minimally harmful.”
Duluth City Councilor Linda Krug, who co-sponsored the ordinance, noted that the city was regulating e-cigs, not banning them. But she believes the council passed the ordinances because they match the city’s values, she said.
“In Duluth, we say we value clean indoor air,” Krug said at Tuesday’s news conference. “I don’t want to sit next to someone who is vaping or whatever it is. We don’t want that in our community.”