MARSHALL - In 1975, Minnesota became the first state to ban smoking in public places under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA). In 2007, the state Legislature amended the law to include the Freedom to Breathe Act, which prohibited smoking in public places and public meetings. Now the author of the MCIAA wants to add e-cigarettes to the legislation.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver water vapor mixed with nicotine or other chemicals or flavorings and are sometimes used to help smokers quit real cigarettes.
According to a press release on the website of Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, dated Nov. 1, 2013, Kahn plans to introduce the ban during the 2014 legislative session, which begins Feb. 25.
"Right now, we've got a patchwork system where local governments and even individual businesses make their own rules," said Kahn in the press release. "It's creating a lot of confusion. My bill removes any doubt as to where e-cigarettes can be used by applying the same regulations we have for traditional tobacco products."
Rep. Laurie Halverson, DFL-Eagan, plans to introduce a similar bill.
Anne Mason is the public affairs officer for ClearWay Minnesota, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing tobacco use. ClearWay supports the ban, said Mason.
"The thing the two bills have in common is they prohibit the use of e-cigarettes anywhere tobacco is prohibited," Mason said. "Right now, Minnesota is ahead of other states, e-cigarettes are not allowed to be sold to minors. Halverson's bill strengthens those provisions and would keep them behind the counter like regular cigarettes."
Lucan resident John Haberman said he has used e-cigarettes to quit smoking.
"E-cigs have allowed me to quit smoking real cigs completely," Haberman said. "E-cigs cost less. No one seems to care if you are using them."
Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center has five respiratory therapists on staff who have training from the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking program.
To date, they haven't seen enough evidence to form an opinion either way on the usefulness of e-cigarettes in quitting smoking, according to Deedee Behnke, Avera Marshall respiratory therapist.
"Nicotine replacement products help clients get through withdrawal," Behnke said. "In my practice, I haven't seen a significant demand for e-cigarettes. They're just not as popular with patients in our area."
ClearWay offers smoking cessation services and products, such as nicotine gum and patches, but claims there is no body of evidence showing the effectiveness of e-cigarettes, according to Mason.
"The introduction of a new product with unknown hazards would be a step backwards," Mason said.