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City attorney working on controlling E-cigarettes

By Staff | Oct 4, 2010

Concerns are that some of the new tobacco products, such as ‘Orbs’ on the right side of this picture, closely resemble candy products like ‘Tic Tacs,’ shown side by side.

A new law passed by the Minnesota Legislature means local cities may need to update ordinances dealing with the use and sale of tobacco.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved the Tobacco Modernization and Compliance Act of 2010.

The law, which went into effect Aug. 1, is in response to new tobacco products that make them more attractive and kid-friendly.

“Right now there is no regulation to enforce the use of E-cigarettes,” says Wells city attorney David Frundt. “As far as the Legislature is concerned, they are cigarettes.”

Frundt told Wells council members he wants to make sure the city’s ordinance complies with state law. He also is reviewing tobacco regulations of six other cities in which he serves as legal counsel.

An E-cigarette is an electronic cigarette containing nicotine, but no tobacco and releases water vapor.

Print advertisements for E-cigarettes list no:

• flame or fire;

• tar or smoke;

• carbon monoxide;

• ash or smell as benefits to smoking the real thing.

Other products such as Camel sticks, orbs and strips are currently being sold in select markets around the country.

Frundt says some of the new products are packaged in candy-like wrappers and could be mistaken for breath mints or strips.

“If the products are sold here we want to be sure they are located behind the counter, to reduce youth access,” he says.

Penalties for sale of the new tobacco items to anyone under 18 years old will likely be the same as they are now.

The first offense carries a $75 fine, but increases to $200 if there is a second violation within 24 months at the same location.

The fine is $250 if there’s a third violation within two years and the seller’s license is suspended for not less than seven days.

Individuals selling tobacco to a person under 18 years old will be fined $50.

In other business:

• A public hearing has been set for 5 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Community Center for proposed assessments involving seven street overlay improvement projects.

City Administrator Jeremy Germann says notices have been sent out to 75 households.

Cost of the projects is estimated at $175,000.

• Council members approved hiring Scott Berg as the liquor store manager pending a background check.

The city received 15 applicants for the position and narrowed the list to five. The two finalists, Berg and Jason Twedt were interviewed at the Sept. 27 meeting.

• Council approved refinancing a bond to save the city about $35,000. The interest rate will go from 4 percent to 2 percent.

• Germann says efforts are being made to contact property owners to clean up a house destroyed by fire at 500 1st. Ave. S.W.

If the parties cannot be reached, the city will run a public notice for 20 days.

Officials have received a bid of $8,900 from Weber Construction to remove the debris.