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Glyndon passes tough e-cigarette laws

REUTERS file

GLYNDON, Minn. - Glyndon recently passed one of the toughest set of tobacco laws in the area, following in the footsteps of neighboring Dilworth.

One of the laws, set to go into effect Monday, would ban the sale of tobacco products within 1,000 feet of any school, house of worship or youth facility, and ban the sampling of tobacco products outright.

Existing tobacco vendors who now sell traditional cigarettes are out of range and won't be affected, City Clerk Denise Anderson said. The real aim of the law, she said, is to keep e-cigarette and hookah vendors away from Glyndon's children.

City Council member Kim Savageau, who introduced the laws to the council, said it was about time the city updated its tobacco laws, especially with how tempting e-cigarettes are.

"A lot of the marketing is aimed towards kids, making everything fruit flavored, making it more of a candy than a tobacco product," he said.

The city also banned the sale and use of tobacco products in city parks, and extended the existing state ban on smoking in most indoor public places to include e-cigarettes.

It's part of a statewide effort to prevent the tobacco industry from creating a new generation of nicotine addicts, said Jason McCoy, the tobacco prevention coordinator for Becker, Clay, Otter Tail and Wilkin counties. The state Legislature has taken some action, but lawmakers are looking to local governments to provide the momentum.

Momentum

McCoy said about 48 percent of the state is now covered by local laws that treat e-cigarettes the same as regular cigarettes. He said anti-tobacco activists think 50 percent is a good number that will get the attention of lawmakers who can make it a state law.

In McCoy's area of responsibility, there has been a lot of momentum of late.

In 2014, Moorhead passed a law treating e-cigarettes the same as regular cigarettes. Clay County followed suit in November and Wilkin County also did last week. Wilkin County's law went into effect Tuesday.

The tough laws that Glyndon passed were passed by Dilworth earlier in October.

McCoy said he hopes the Moorhead City Council will expand its tobacco laws to ban sampling of tobacco, which some vendors have taken to extremes by allowing customers to "sample" for up to an hour.

Besides not allowing e-cigarettes in public indoor places, Moorhead does not allow the sale and use of tobacco in its parks, and does not allow the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes within 20 feet of the entrance to a public building.

'Renormalization'

Though there is concern that e-cigarettes produce secondhand vapor that's just as harmful to bystanders as secondhand smoke, many of the laws that McCoy and others activists are pushing are aimed at preventing kids from using tobacco.

A new generation is growing up in a society where smoking is not seen as normal or even cool, which is a win for anti-tobacco forces. But those gains are threatened by e-cigarettes and hookahs, which are seen as cool, McCoy said.

"It's a renormalization that's happening," he said.

McCoy said one high school principal he talked to told him it used to be that only certain kinds of kids would be caught smoking, but now even the band kids and honor students are caught with e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are especially appealing to young people, he said, because they come in candy-like flavors such as sour patch, and the devices themselves are colorful and many light up with LEDs.

The next step is to take e-cigarettes out of convenience stores completely and require they be sold in adults-only stores like liquor is, McCoy said. Minneapolis has such a law and St. Paul is starting one also, he said.

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