While a new survey shows tobacco use by Minnesota high school students has declined in recent years, state health officials are concerned about the rising number of young people using electronic cigarettes. The state’s latest survey on youth tobacco use released Monday found one in in eight high school students used e-cigarettes recently.
Minnesota’s first regulations for electronic cigarettes are a step from becoming law. By wide margins, the Legislature adopted a health policy bill Thursday night most notable for the e-cigarette rules.
An attempt to treat electronic cigarettes like regular smokes has stalled in the Minnesota Legislature.
Minnesota Poison Control System officials say they’re seeing a sharp increase in the number of young people being harmed by e-cigarette liquid. In 2012, the poison center received five reports of e-cigarette-related poisonings for people under 20 years old. Last year, that number jumped to 50.
A Minnesota legislator is now proposing a bill that would put e-cigarettes across under the same state-wide restrictions as cigarettes. The bill from DFL State Rep. Phyllis Kahn would limit the use of e-cigarettes under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Act.
Forty attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday urging the agency to meet its own deadline and regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.
More smokers are turning to electronic cigarettes as a less-expensive and less-regulated way to get their nicotine. But they’re still so new, governments and businesses are grappling with how to deal with them. E-cigarettes have a battery-powered heating element that produces vapor rather than smoke. They’re not restricted under Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act, but many businesses – including the Minnesota Twins – are telling customers to put them away.
Minnesota’s new $1.60-per-pack sales tax increase on cigarettes begins next week. Meanwhile, retailers are betting smokers will try to switch to a tobacco product not subject to the state’s tobacco taxes: electronic cigarettes.