Rep. Phyllis Kahn to introduce bill restricting e-cigs during next legislative session

Nearly 40 years ago, Kahn authored the Clean Air Act. Now, she wants to lead the push for statewide regulation of e-cigs.
Nearly 40 years ago, Kahn authored the Clean Air Act. Now, she wants to lead the push for statewide regulation of e-cigs.

In recent months, e-cigarettes have become increasingly regulated at the business, municipal, and county level.

SEE ALSO: Rep. Phyllis Kahn on Seward voting lines: "Someone at the city should be executed"

But Rep. Phyllis Kahn, D-Minneapolis, isn't satisfied with that, and next legislative session, she plans to get the state involved.

Today, a press release distributed by the DFL House communications staff announced that Kahn is set to introduce a bill that would add e-cigs to the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, thereby banning their use in all public places, including offices, bars, and public transportation.

"Right now, we've got a patchwork system where local governments and even individual businesses make their own rules," Kahn says in the release. "It's creating a lot of confusion. My bill removes any doubt as to where e-cigarettes can be used by applying the same regulations we have for traditional tobacco products."

On the other side of the issue, e-cig supporters argue crackdowns like the one proposed by Kahn don't provide any sort of public health benefit while needlessly making life more difficult for those trying to quit smoking.

"People smoke for the nicotine, they die from the smoke," David Sweanor, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who works on tobacco and health issues, recently told the CBC.

Likewise, Dr. Peter Selby, chief of the addictions division at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, argues government shouldn't get in the way of people who want to inhale smokeless tobacco unless e-cigs are demonstrated to have some sort of negative health consequence, which hasn't been proven at this point.

While acknowledging "we need a framework to study [e-cigs and their health implications] and understand it so we can actually tell smokers it is a safer option," Selby said, "Right now, it looks like we've got our head in the sand. If you take the nicotine out of the tobacco and only give people nicotine, the potential harm is likely very, very small."

But in the DFL's news release, Kahn -- the author of the Clean Air Act back in 1975 -- suggests Minnesota shouldn't wait around for the science of e-cigs to be settled.

"I think our cities and businesses are looking to the state of Minnesota for leadership on this issue," Kahn said. "We can remove a lot of the confusion we're seeing right now and bring more stability to this growing market."

"Our state is a leader when it comes to public health," she concluded. "My bill continues that tradition."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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