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BEMIDJI CITY COUNCIL: E-cigs sales amendment passes 4-3

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji City Council narrowly passed an amendment Monday that adds the sale of electronic cigarettes to its existing ordinance on tobacco.

The ordinance requires stores selling e-cigarettes to have a license and prohibits the selling of e-cigarettes to minors. It subjects e-cigarette stores to the same yearly no-sales-to-minors compliance checks conventional tobacco vendors undergo.

Councilors Reed Olson, Ron Johnson, Michael Meehlhause and Mayor Rita Albrecht all voted for the amendment. Councilors Roger Hellquist, Nancy Erickson and Jim Thompson voted against.

Olson had opposed portions of a previous draft of the amendment that defined smoking as carrying an e-cigarette, saying it could be interpreted as effectively criminalizing possession of e-cigarettes. That paragraph was later struck from the amendment. Olson said after Monday’s meeting that he voted for the amendment since he was in favor of licensing e-cigarette sales, and his concerns over the previous draft had been sufficiently addressed.

“They took out the language I didn’t like,” he said. “I was never against the licensing.”

Erickson’s reasoning for opposing the amendment was that she felt it restricted the use of e-cigarettes.

“To severely restrict the use of e-cigarettes is harsh and it is an overreach, considering there is no scientific evidence that it causes any harm to anyone,” she said.

The ordinance does not regulate the use of e-cigarettes, only their sales. The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners will have the public hearing on an ordinance regulating the use of e-cigarettes during their meeting tonight.

The city’s sales amendment will become effective 30 days after a legal summary of the ordinance is published.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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