Senate committee approves tougher regulations on e-cigarettes

Chris Polydoroff/St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP
This Nov. 26, 2013 photo shows Jesse Forsblade, left, and Mark Bartholomew smoking and drinking coffee at the Smokeless Smoking electronic cigarette store in Woodbury, Minn. Stores that sell increasingly popular e-cigarettes are popping up around the Twin Cities, highlighting both a lack of regulation and new state cigarette taxes that went into effect in July, pushing the cost of a pack to about $7.50. Chris Polydoroff/St. Paul Pioneer Press via AP


At Smokeless Smoking's newest location in Bloomington, salesman Bobby Frie "vapes" as he sets up customers Lainne Knutson and Aaron Miller with e-cigarette supplies on Monday, June 17, 2013. Mark Zdechlik/MPR News

A bill that would ban e-cigarettes in indoor public places was approved by a key Senate committee today. The Senate Finance Committee approved the bill 11-8.

The proposal would include electronic cigarettes under the same rules as smoking.

Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, says she's not pushing for an outright ban on e-cigarettes, but she says her bill reflects that there's uncertainty about the health effects of the vapor emitted from the electronic devices.

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"It just asks that the risks that are unknown are not imposed on other people in public indoor places where the public would like the Freedom to Breathe act to continue to extend to this product,” she said.

The bill would also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and keep e-cigs out of schools.

Opponents of the regulations say there's no proof that the vapor is harmful.

"I'm not sure that I'm willing to call this activity smoking at this point and put it into that category when clearly the research has not determined that,” Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud said.

The Minnesota House has been debating a bill that does not place e-cigarettes under clean indoor air act rules.

Gov. Mark Dayton says he supports banning the devices in schools and a ban on sales  to minors, but he doesn't want to treat them like cigarettes under the clean indoor air act.