Minneapolis may soon equate vaping with smoking.
Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon has plans to introduce an amendment to the citywide smoking ban code on Friday. This would essentially classify the use of e-cigarettes as smoking, banning them in places like restaurants and bars.
Gordon and health experts say the change would be in line with other local tobacco bans and would prevent young people from developing nicotine addictions.
“[E-cigarettes are] a quick and easy way to get addicted to nicotine,” said Lara Pratt, manager of the Minneapolis Health Department’s Healthy Living initiative.
The proposed amendment comes about a decade after the City Council implemented a citywide smoking ban. The ordinance currently classifies smoking as “inhaling, exhaling or combustion of any cigar, cigarette, pipe, tobacco product, weed, plant or any other similar article.”
The amendment would come on the heels of the statewide ban on e-cigarettes in Minnesota schools, government buildings and most hospitals, which took effect in July.
The Minneapolis Health Department is currently collecting information on how e-cigarettes affect young people and their popularity among the age group, Pratt said.
A national study by the Centers for Disease Control released in August found that more than 250,000 young people who had never smoked cigarettes used e-cigarettes last year. Those people were also more likely to try traditional cigarettes, the study found.
Gordon said his amendment was spurred in part by recommendations from the Minneapolis Youth Congress — an organization made up of middle school- and high school-age students who collaborate with local elected officials. The youth group recommended in early June that the City Council classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
The way the industry markets e-cigarettes toward younger people is alarming, Gordon said. Noting the variety of appealing flavors, he said manufacturers of the smokeless cigarettes have found a profitable market in young people.
“They’re definitely putting them out there at gas stations, and they look cool,” he said. “So we’re hearing that it’s kind of becoming a gateway.”
Pratt said e-cigarette use isn’t more predominant than tobacco cigarettes among young people, though they may act as a gateway for some.
“There’s great concern over this unknown and potentially harmful product,” Pratt said.
While research on the smokeless cigarettes is ongoing, some say there isn’t enough evidence to suggest they are harmful and shouldn’t be included in the smoking ban.
“There [are] a few vapor users who think this is an infringement of their rights,” Gordon said.
Civil engineering sophomore Jan Waszczuk said people who smoke e-cigarettes are typically considerate of others and don’t use them around those who ask them not to.
“If I’m smoking and people told me to move, I would,” he said.
Other students said they don’t see the harm in smoking e-cigarettes indoors.
“The smell doesn’t offend people, and there’s not much fear of secondhand [smoke],” said Shashank Holalkere, a nutrition sophomore.