Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

E-cigarettes: Former Lawmaker's View: St. Louis County can lead the way

I am a former medical school educator who had the honor of serving 11 terms as the east Duluth district’s representative in the Minnesota House. My proudest moment in public service came in 2007 when the Freedom to Breathe Act, a bill I authored that extended Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act to all indoor workplaces — including restaurants and bars — became law.

Northeastern Minnesota always has been on the front lines of the battle to improve health in our state. It’s true we face some of the greatest health challenges of any Minnesota region. But this also means that, historically, we have shown creativity in rising to those challenges and have been on the cutting edge of health policy. Duluth was one of the first major cities in Minnesota to pursue a smoke-free restaurant policy and was the first to add e-cigarettes to its local clean-air ordinance.

This is where our region belongs, and that’s why I encourage St. Louis County commissioners to add e-cigarettes to our county’s tobacco ordinance.

E-cigarettes are a troubling phenomenon. It’s true that many people are using them to try to quit smoking — and that’s a goal that should be commended. But science hasn’t shown that they’re effective tools for quitting. In fact, the most recent research suggests there is no conclusive evidence that they are a good choice for smokers.

But when it comes to public spaces, whether e-cigarettes can help smokers quit or not is irrelevant. The aerosol they produce contains harmful chemicals including carcinogens, formaldehyde and heavy metals. It also contains the addictive chemical nicotine, which is known to be harmful to brain development in children and young people. No one should be breathing in these toxins. It is unacceptable that these chemicals should be distributed into the air in any place nonsmokers and kids patronize, be it a restaurant or the grocery store.

The proliferation of e-cigarettes in public places is having another unintended consequence: Kids, many of whom have never experienced a smoky restaurant, view them as normal, interesting toys. The manufacturers of e-cigarettes, who include the major tobacco companies, are using the same tricks that were used to market cigarettes to kids generations ago. E-cigarettes come in candy flavors that research has shown can draw kids to tobacco. It’s hardly surprising, then, that youth e-cigarette use has risen dramatically in recent years.

There shouldn’t be any debate here. Our clean air should be kept clean, and recreational chemical devices should be kept as far away from children as possible. The St. Louis County commissioners need to continue our proud tradition of leadership on health issues and make this proposal a reality.

Tom Huntley of Duluth represented the eastern portion of the city for 21 years, before deciding not to seek re-election in 2014.

I am a former medical school educator who had the honor of serving 11 terms as the east Duluth district’s representative in the Minnesota House. My proudest moment in public service came in 2007 when the Freedom to Breathe Act, a bill I authored that extended Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act to all indoor workplaces — including restaurants and bars — became law.

Northeastern Minnesota always has been on the front lines of the battle to improve health in our state. It’s true we face some of the greatest health challenges of any Minnesota region. But this also means that, historically, we have shown creativity in rising to those challenges and have been on the cutting edge of health policy. Duluth was one of the first major cities in Minnesota to pursue a smoke-free restaurant policy and was the first to add e-cigarettes to its local clean-air ordinance.

This is where our region belongs, and that’s why I encourage St. Louis County commissioners to add e-cigarettes to our county’s tobacco ordinance.

E-cigarettes are a troubling phenomenon. It’s true that many people are using them to try to quit smoking — and that’s a goal that should be commended. But science hasn’t shown that they’re effective tools for quitting. In fact, the most recent research suggests there is no conclusive evidence that they are a good choice for smokers.

But when it comes to public spaces, whether e-cigarettes can help smokers quit or not is irrelevant. The aerosol they produce contains harmful chemicals including carcinogens, formaldehyde and heavy metals. It also contains the addictive chemical nicotine, which is known to be harmful to brain development in children and young people. No one should be breathing in these toxins. It is unacceptable that these chemicals should be distributed into the air in any place nonsmokers and kids patronize, be it a restaurant or the grocery store.

The proliferation of e-cigarettes in public places is having another unintended consequence: Kids, many of whom have never experienced a smoky restaurant, view them as normal, interesting toys. The manufacturers of e-cigarettes, who include the major tobacco companies, are using the same tricks that were used to market cigarettes to kids generations ago. E-cigarettes come in candy flavors that research has shown can draw kids to tobacco. It’s hardly surprising, then, that youth e-cigarette use has risen dramatically in recent years.

There shouldn’t be any debate here. Our clean air should be kept clean, and recreational chemical devices should be kept as far away from children as possible. The St. Louis County commissioners need to continue our proud tradition of leadership on health issues and make this proposal a reality.

Tom Huntley of Duluth represented the eastern portion of the city for 21 years, before deciding not to seek re-election in 2014.

Advertisement