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Council votes to restrict e-cigarette use in Duluth

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Forum News Service

New restrictions will soon confront users of electronic cigarettes in Duluth.

A series of ordinances passed Monday night by the Duluth City Council will subject people using e-cigarettes to the same restrictions faced by smokers puffing on conventional cigarettes. The ordinances also will prevent hookah bars from doing business in the city.

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But several councilors expressed misgivings about different aspects of the new rules.

Councilor Sharla Gardner supported many of the restrictions but not one that would prevent patrons of smoke shops from testing out e-cigarettes and sampling different flavored solutions on premises.

“I’m really not OK with banning something or demonizing it when everyone agrees all the science isn’t in on this,” Gardner said.

She also noted that e-cigarettes have been a helpful tool in helping wean some people off yet more dangerous conventional cigarettes.

“I certainly don’t want to be harming people’s efforts to quit,” she said.

But Councilor Jennifer Julsrud, who introduced the ordinances, said they were necessary.

“I wrote these ordinances and I pushed for them because I want to protect kids, and I believe in supporting clean air,” she said.

Councilor Jay Fosle, who opposed all the new ordinances, said the rules were unnecessary, as it’s already against the law to sell e-cigarettes to minors.

He said individual businesses and properties already have the right to ban the use of e-cigarettes if they wish and said the council should be more concerned with the use of other products.

“What we should really be concerned about is the use of heroin and ecstasy,” he said.

Fosle said that by taking such a restrictive stance toward e-cigarettes, the city would push businesses into neighboring communities.

“We’re going against businesses that would bring more money onto our tax rolls,” he said.

Fosle contended it was wrong to lump e-cigarettes in with tobacco.

But Duluth resident Sharon Lund testified that e-cigarettes have not been shown to be harmless. She said the devices have been found to emit about 20 percent of the pollutants that regular cigarettes do, but she could not support introducing them into spaces where clean air has become the norm.

“Do we really want to take a step backwards and expose people to more carcinogens and toxic chemicals again?” she asked.

Lund said she also was sickened by e-cigarette manufacturers’ attempts to appeal to young people with flavored solutions, such as bubble gum or cookies and cream.

Councilor Jim Stauber said that for him watching out for the public welfare, particular for young people, takes top priority.

“I generally don’t like government intruding on people’s lives, but I think this is the right thing to do,” he said.

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