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St. Louis County considers ban on e-cigarettes

St. Louis County made its first motion Tuesday to join the ranks of other local governments moving to ban electronic cigarettes in public places.

The county board set a public hearing for May 12 to consider ordinance No. 63 to prohibit "electronic delivery devices in public places, retail environments and places of work."

The county's move would follow Duluth which in 2013 became the first local government in Minnesota to treat electronic cigarettes the same as traditional cigarettes and ban them in public places.

So far, 22 other cities and seven counties have followed Duluth's lead, including Cloquet, Hermantown and Ely. Forty cities and nine counties ban sampling of tobacco and e-cigarettes in retail stores.

"Duluth jumped out ahead on this and since then there's been a lot of acceptance. It brings a sense of certainty to pub owners and others who aren't sure how to treat these things," said Patrick Boyle, county commissioner representing eastern Duluth.

Boyle said he's heard of little if any opposition to a county-wide ordinance.

"Especially now that we're hearing about all the chemicals in there. And that, even as cigarette use is going down, e-cigarette use is increasing. ... This would seem to be a no-brainer," Boyle added.

The proposed St. Louis County ordinance is supported by the county's Public Health and Human Services Advisory Committee which voted unanimously to support a ban on e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is prohibited by the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.

In a letter to County Board Chairman Pete Stauber, Pat Ives, chair of the advisory committee, said e-cigarettes pose a variety of dangers, including poisoning, and noted the products are not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Many of the products are packaged to appeal to children, the letter notes, and some children have been poisoned by e-cigarette use.

The advisory committee says the vapor from e-cigarettes may contain harmful chemicals.

The county's ordinance would apply to all municipalities within the county.

Public hearing on county ordinance banning e-cigarettes

Tuesday, May 12

9:40 a.m., before the regular county board meeting

County Board chambers

St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth