Hennepin County Enacts Public Use Ban (but allows sampling)

On Monday, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 to approve an amendment to Ordinance 24 related to tobacco products. The amended ordinance bans the use of e-cigarettes in all areas prohibited by the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. Jeff Johnson of the 7th District was the dissenting vote, as this amendment disproportionately affects his constituents, including E-Cig 101 in Rogers.

Naturally, we’re disappointed at this outcome, as the ban will discourage current smokers from exploring a dramatically less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products by sending a message that they’re just as bad as smoking. Despite over 60 pages of data submitted by Minnesota Vapers Advocacy and testimony from MNVA’s Jason Downing, IVRM’s Cap O’Rourke, Nick Phelps of E-Cig 101 and others, the Board chose to exceed the existing state legislation on the matter.

Hennepin County, like Minneapolis, understood that prohibiting sampling in shops is absolutely vital and included strong protections for sampling within the County. While this language does not supersede any municipal ordinance already in place, we were able to convince the Commissioners not to repeat the mistakes of Bloomington in attacking small business simply for operating legally.

“Nothing in this Ordinance prohibits smoking a tobacco product or electronic delivery device as defined in Minn. Stat. § 609.685 in a tobacco products shop by an employee, customer or potential customer for the limited purpose of sampling a product, product instruction, or testing an electronic delivery device.”

This language was made possible by testimony provided at the public hearing on January 13th. Both MNVA and IVRM testified to the County Board that the original amended language would prohibit sampling entirely and prevent employees from troubleshooting devices. Without the efforts made during the public hearing and behind the scenes with Hennepin staff, this language would never have been included. Without YOUR support, e-mails, phone calls and spreading the word, Hennepin would have banned vaping in shops as well.

While this isn’t a victory as such, it is an important first step to recapturing the drive we had during last year’s state legislative session. MNVA is back in full swing and we hope you’ll continue to support your local shops as well as the community as whole.