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Baxter City Council: Eyes limits on e-cigs

BAXTER--Electronic cigarettes could be limited in the same way as their traditional counterparts in Baxter. Recently, during the council's last regular meeting this year, the council considered language in a draft ordinance to regulate e-cigarettes.

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BAXTER-Electronic cigarettes could be limited in the same way as their traditional counterparts in Baxter.

Recently, during the council's last regular meeting this year, the council considered language in a draft ordinance to regulate e-cigarettes. The draft ordinance language states "electronic delivery devices produce a vapor of undetermined and potentially harmful substances, which may appear similar to smoke emitted by traditional tobacco products. Their use in workplaces and public places where smoking of traditional tobacco products is prohibited creates concern and confusion and leads to difficulties in enforcing the smoking prohibitions."

The city noted the Federal Food and Drug Administration tested e-cigarettes from two leading manufacturers and found not only nicotine but other known carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is a toxic chemical used in antifreeze. The e-cigarette devices are currently unregulated.

Baxter's proposed ordinance would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes anywhere smoking is prohibited by the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. Baxter is planning to allow sampling of e-cigarette products in a tobacco shop, defined as a business where at least 90 percent of its revenue is coming from the sale of tobacco or electronic delivery devices and where no one younger than 18 is allowed to enter.

Sampling of traditional tobacco products will not be allowed with this ordinance.

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Alicia Bauman, who has spoken to the council in the past as a resource on state laws and what other communities have done on this topic, was asked if momentum was picking up for statewide action. Bauman said more communities have moved in that direction ever since the last time Baxter discussed it but no change was expected in the next legislative session. This past fall, Elk River voted 3-2 in favor of banning e-cigarettes everywhere smoking is prohibited by the state's Clean Indoor Air Act. The Elk River ordinance was expected to go into effect this month.

Gordon Heitke, Baxter city administrator, said he did reach out to Brainerd to see what the city was doing but hasn't been able to get a response back. Heitke said he interpreted that as Brainerd not being really interested in pursuing it at this time.

Baxter Council member Steve Barrows said he wasn't as concerned about what neighboring communities were doing. A lot of effort goes into ordinances in Baxter, Barrows said, adding it was his desire to go forward.

"I think we are doing our due diligence here," Barrows said.

Council member Quinn Nystrom earlier suggested language allowing customers to sample the e-cigarette products in Baxter retailers and said that was an important part to include.

Council member Mark Cross said he was in total agreement and wanted to move forward as soon as possible.

Mayor Darrel Olson said Baxter does stand alone as it has the majority of hotels and a lot of restaurants. Olson said he wishes others would join in but that wasn't something the city of Baxter could regulate.

"We can regulate ourselves," Olson said.

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He noted people have invested money and remodeled their businesses as well. Earlier this year, seven lodging establishments in Baxter sought the council's help asking for regulation on e-cigarettes.

"I wish nobody smoked, but they do," Olson said.

Olson said smokers are already accustomed to going outside of businesses to smoke now and while the e-cigarettes are a different method, the ordinance represents the same standard.

The council set the topic for action on its Jan. 5 agenda for action.

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

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