The issue of e-cigarettes is going to be up for discussion in the state, and undoubtedly around the country. E-cigarettes are devices that kind of look like cigarettes, but instead of burning tobacco they heat a flavored, nicotine laced liquid to produce a vapor that is inhaled.
It looks like smoking, and anti-smoking groups want it to be treated like smoking - banned in all the places regular smoking is banned.
State Sen. Kathy Sheran said this week she plans to sponsor a bill to regulate e-cigarettes like regular cigarettes. Mankato and Sleepy Eye have already passed local ordinances regulating the devices and their use. New Ulm is taking a wait-and-see attitude, letting state lawmakers and federal regulators set the standards before adopting local regulations.
E-cigarette proponents claim the devices and the vapor they produce are harmless, with none of the harmful by-products of second-hand cigarette smoke. They promote them as safer, cleaner alternatives to tobacco that can help cigarette smokers kick the habit. Opponents see them as "gateway" devices that could lead young people to start smoking real cigarettes, and claim there is no real evidence that they are as safe as claimed.
That's the problem with e-cigarettes. No one really knows what kind of risk they carry.
Until there is some solid data, government should tread lightly on regulation. A temporary moratorium on their public use until their safety risk is established would be in order, but an outright ban is not warranted at this time.