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County bans e-cigs use indoors

The Lake County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that banned the use of e-cigarettes in bars and restaurants throughout the county during its meeting Tuesday in Two Harbors.

The resolution, which amended the county's previous "Smoke-free Public Places and Places of Work Ordinance" banned smoking in restaurants, bars and places of work, banned the use of e-cigarettes, also known as electronic delivery devices, in public and work spaces. It also more clearly defined what constitutes and indoor area and eliminated the exception for tobacco product shops.

Similar ordinances have been adopted across the region and Louise Anderson, director of the Carlton-Cook-Lake-St. Louis County Health Board, bars and restaurants in those areas have found the ordinances helpful in clarifying to customers what is and is not appropriate.

"Currently there are 51 counties and cities in Minnesota that have amended their smoke-free ordinance," Anderson during a public meeting Jan. 23. "They're finding that there's much less confusion with the residents. It's liked very much by business owners because they don't have to say, 'In this business there is absolutely no smoking, to include e-cigarettes,' and then the customers maybe go next door and they can smoke e-cigarettes. It clears up a lot of different misconceptions."

Anderson also said there isn't any data on e-cigarette usage in Lake County, but studies around the region have shown the rates increasing significantly among young people and anecdotal evidence from Two Harbors High School shows very high rates.

"We also know that rates are increasing significantly for adults," Anderson said. "We know that adults are dual-using. We know that adults are using e-cigarettes as a cessation device and what more often happens is that they'll be dual-using and so they are getting an extra nicotine addiction. With e-cigarettes, the early research is showing that there certainly are levels of heavy metals and cancerous products in e-cigarettes, just like regular cigarettes. There is also early research that shows a type of popcorn lung that can happen with e-cigarettes."

While Anderson and several other advocates of the amended ordinance spoke to the board, no one voiced opposition to the resolution.

Most bars and restaurants in Lake County either already had a policy prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes or the issue had never come up. Kirsten Cruikshank of Cedar Coffee Co. in Two Harbors said it's "never been an issue" in nearly two years of operation.

Everette Haselow of Northwoods Family Grille in Silver Bay said his wife has problems with her lungs and they've never allowed use of tobacco products in their restaurant since it opening in December 2014.

Frank McQuade, owner of McQuade's Spices and More in Two Harbors, said he has never allowed e-cigarette use in his coffee shop and doesn't plan to when his new restaurant at 602 First Avenue opens later this year. Other businesses with existing policies against e-cigarette use include Rustic Inn in Castle Danger and Vanilla Bean, Carmody 61, Castle Danger Brewery, all in Two Harbors.

The only bar or restaurant the News-Chronicle spoke to that will be affected by the expanded policy is the Trestle Inn near Finland. Owner Sue Rian said during she allowed people to use e-cigarettes in her bar, particularly during the cold winter months, but didn't think it would harm business.

"I don't know if it will hurt it, it's just another inconvenience," she said. "I don't know that they'll not come here because of it."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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