Ordinance in process to ban vaping products, e-cigarettes

City Council moves to protect youth, community

City+Council+member+Margaret+Rog%2C+City+Manager+Tom+Harmening%2C+and+Mayor+Jake+Spano+listen+to+public+concerns+regarding+the+new+economic+issues+with+vaping+Dec.+16.+Citizens+of+St.+Louis+Park+including+students+from+Benilde-St.+Margarets+spoke+their+opinion+regarding+the+laws+of+vaping+in+the+city+at+the+meeting.+

Carissa Prestholdt

City Council member Margaret Rog, City Manager Tom Harmening, and Mayor Jake Spano listen to public concerns regarding the new economic issues with vaping Dec. 16. Citizens of St. Louis Park including students from Benilde-St. Margaret’s spoke their opinion regarding the laws of vaping in the city at the meeting.

Marta Hill

After speaking at a public hearing at a City Council meeting Dec. 16, Josie Nelson, a junior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, said limiting access to vaping products is important because vaping has many negative effects on youth.

“I care about this issue because it is something that we see happen every day at our school and affecting our friends and people who we really care about. We do not want it to happen to younger kids because it is really gross,” Nelson said. 

The City Council hosted a public hearing Dec. 16 to discuss the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping products in St. Louis Park. The City Council voted 6-1 to pass the first reading of an ordinance prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in St. Louis Park. 

According to Brian Hoffman, director of building and energy, the purpose of this ordinance is to act as a deterrent by making products less visible and available to people in St. Louis Park.

“St. Louis Park has always been a children’s first community. It is always concerned about the general health of the community and how we (can) improve general community livability,” Hoffman said. “It seems evident, especially in children, that use is going up and it is so easy to pick up an e-cigarette and not think that you are actually taking in a tobacco product.” 

City Council member At Large A Steve Hallfin, the only City Council member to vote against the ordinance, said it is not City Council’s place to limit what people can buy.

“I hate these products, I think they are horrible products and I don’t think anybody should use them, but having said that, it is a freedom of choice subject for me,” Hallfin said.  “If you are an adult you should have the right to make your own decisions, and the City Council shouldn’t take those decisions away from you.”

According to City Council member At Large B Thom Miller, who originally brought up the issue, it is City Council’s responsibility to protect the residents of St. Louis Park from vaping because it is new and most consequences are unknown.

“This is the beauty of local city government, that we can step in at this time and we can move relatively quickly in this regard to do what we can to assist in the public health of the community,” Miller said during the meeting. “I don’t think for a minute this is going to solve this issue, this is a small part of the solution, but that is how solutions like this are grown.”

According to Benilde-St. Maragret’s junior Maliah Jaiteh, it is important to pay attention to vaping and e-cigarettes now because of the parallels to cigarettes.

“I think it is more important now because we didn’t find out that cigarettes were super bad until years later,” Jaiteh said. “Stopping it at the beginning, when people start getting lung injuries, stopping (vaping and e-cigarette use) as soon as you get the first few things against it is important.”

This is not a singular solution, it will certainly take many hands, many voices and much time.”

— Rachel Harris

Rachel Harris, City Council member Ward 3, said although she has received many letters in support of the ordinance, in order to make more widespread change, the support must continue.

“This is not a singular solution, it will certainly take many hands, many voices and much time. Please share with your friends and neighbors, reach out to your Hennepin County commissioners, your state legislators to move this forward,” Harris said during the meeting. “We need your help and your voices to have broad reach and broad impact in this public health need.”

When reflecting on his past as a smoker, mayor Jake Spano said he is concerned about the widespread use of vaping products and e-cigarettes in teens.

“I am hearing about things going on in our high schools, kids not being able to make it 20 minutes without vaping. I smoked a pack and a half a day and I could go six hours without a cigarette,” Spano said during the meeting. “This is not a fair fight. When people become addicted to these things, it is almost impossible to get off.”

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Jan 6. If approved, the ordinance will go into effect Feb. 1.