NORTH MANKATO — Electronic cigarettes will soon be banned from North Mankato businesses and restaurants, the City Council decided Monday on a 3-1 vote.
The move brings North Mankato into conformity with Mankato, which decided in January to regulate e-cigs like tobacco cigarettes.
The ordinance also bars indoor sampling, a provision that an e-cig backer said will make it more difficult for retailers to open a shop in the city.
The ban takes effect upon publication in the newspaper, which is expected within the week.
Of the seven people who testified at the public hearing, six asked the council to go ahead with the ban.
Chris Crocker, a physicians assistant from North Mankato, said e-cig use among teenagers is skyrocketing just as tobacco use continues to drop. Instead of helping people quit, he said, e-cigs are a gateway to nicotine addiction.
“The science isn’t complete, but it’s coming out,” he said.
Cap O’Rourke of Minneapolis, who represents vaping stores statewide, said no studies have shown that e-cig vapor is harmful. And he said the ban on indoor sampling would hurt stores that want to give customers a trial run.
Once the discussion moved to the council, Councilman Kim Spears and Mayor Mark Dehen defined their respective positions.
Criticizing the “scare tactics” of anti e-cig efforts, Spears said “until you can prove that these things are harmful, I think you should at least give adults a choice in the matter of whether they should use these or not.”
As the vote was being taken, Spears paused a moment as if to collect his thoughts.
“I feel bad for my father and anyone who’s sacrificed for freedom,” he said, before voting "no."
Dehen said there’s growing evidence that illegal drugs are being vaporized in e-cig devices.
“Until there’s proof that this is safe … then there’s no reason we should put the public at risk,” he said.
Councilwoman Diane Norland and Councilman Bob Freyberg voted for the ban, and Councilman Billy Steiner was absent.