City Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes

Minnesota cities are taking action to regulate electronic cigarettes.
(Published Sep 16, 2013)

The newest nicotine delivery system seems to create as many questions about city regulation as it has flavors. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are battery-powered devices that deliver doses of nicotine through an aerosol vapor. The number of people using them has increased dramatically in the last few years. The liquid that creates the vapor comes in a variety of flavors including watermelon, pina colada, peach schnapps and more traditional flavors like tobacco and menthol.

Currently, e-cigs are regulated as a “tobacco product” by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA does not consider e-cigarettes to be drugs or devices used for smoking cessation. State law in Minnesota also allows governmental regulation of tobacco products. City ordinances that regulate e-cigarettes rely on this authority in state law to regulate the sale and licensing of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product under Minnesota Statutes, section 461.12, citing to Minnesota Statutes, section 609.685, subdivision 1.

Ed Ehlinger, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, recently told Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) that he plans to talk to Gov. Dayton about how the state may want to regulate the devices in the future. (Access the MPR report.)

Also, the FDA has announced that it intends to expand its jurisdiction over e-cigarettes. The FDA could announce proposed regulations as early as this fall.

On Sept. 9, Duluth passed two ordinances regulating the sale and licensing of e-cigarettes. (Read related Star Tribune article.). Duluth also amended another ordinance to ban smoking e-cigarettes in city parks. Mankato and North Mankato also passed ordinances regulating the sale of e-cigarettes earlier this summer.

The League Research Department is developing sample city ordinances regulating the sale and licensing of e-cigarettes. To request a copy of a sample ordinance, contact LMC Research at research@lmc.org, (651) 281-1200, or (800) 925-1122.

The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium also has information that could be helpful to cities interested in regulating e-cigarettes.
View Tips & Tools for Regulating E-Cigarettes (pdf)

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