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Health notes: Lung association pushes for statewide e-cig restrictions

The American Lung Association in Minnesota is pressuring state lawmakers to follow Duluth’s lead when it comes to regulating electronic cigarettes.

A new state law that went into effect last week bans e-cigarette use in schools, requires retailers to keep e-cigarettes behind counters and guarantees penalties for those who sell e-cigs to minors. But the association says outlawing e-cigarette use in all indoor public places, like Duluth did last fall, would ensure residents receive “the same standard of clean indoor air that we expect in our smoke-free environments.”

“Minnesota is leading the nation in taking steps to regulate e-cigarettes,” said Molly Moilanen, director of public affairs at ClearWay Minnesota, an independent nonprofit geared toward reducing tobacco use and exposure across the state. “These reasonable restrictions will help to protect kids from the tobacco industry, which has a history of targeting youth.”

The association cited a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control that found a more than 250 percent increase in youth exposure to e-cigarette marketing from 2011-13. Further research, the association said, shows that flavored tobacco products, like those available for e-cigarettes, appeal particularly to children and teens.

The study found that 80 percent of e-cigarette marketing to youth was done by blu eCigs, a line of e-cigarettes owned by Lorillard Tobacco Co.

In a testimony to Congress last month, blu President Jason Healy said the company has “actively advocated for and supported state legislation to prevent minors from purchasing electronic cigarettes,” and also “adopted strict and responsible marketing restrictions that reflect a clear focus on adult smokers while also substantially reducing youth exposure to blu ads and promotions.”

Healy said designing less harmful e-cigarette products should be a top priority.

Last October, Duluth city councilors passed a series of ordinances that subject e-cigarette users to the same laws that apply to conventional cigarette smokers under the Clean Indoor Air Act.

Moilanen said Duluth and other communities that took a proactive approach in curbing the use of e-cigarettes in all indoor public places has created a model for the Legislature.

“The new restrictions are a step in the right direction,” Moilanen said. “We applaud the many communities across the state that have gone further by prohibiting e-cigarette use in all indoor public places, including bars and restaurants. We hope the state will follow their example next session.”