St. Paul uncertain about e-cigarettes

The St. Paul City Council has decided to take a deep breath before it regulates electronic cigarettes.

The council today delayed a scheduled vote on an ordinance that would add e-cigarettes to the list of tobacco products regulated by the city.

“Whenever we do something really new, we should make sure that we are getting the outcome that we expect,” Council President Kathy Lantry said.


The inventor of the electronic cigarette, Hon Lik, smokes his invention in Beiijng on May 25, 2009. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images.)

Electronic cigarettes resemble the real thing, but instead of smoke, they produce a nicotine mist when the user inhales.

“It gives an alternative for people who are trying to quit smoking, and they can smoke something other than the tars and nasty stuff that kill people in cigarettes,” said Council Member Dave Thune, who spoke against the ordinance at last week’s council meeting.

The refillable devices, which start at about $30, are marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. But the Food and Drug Administration disputes those claims. It says e-cigarettes haven’t even been proven safe, let alone beneficial.

“There really has never been any research or any study that has shown e-cigarettes to be effective at helping people quit,” said Mike Sheldon, a spokesman for Clearway Minnesota, a non-profit organization that promotes smoking cessation.

The proposed ordinance would require e-cigarette retailers to be licensed just like stores that sell tobacco.

Dozens of Minnesota cities have have taken similar actions since the state banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

  • Patricia Clewell

    Mike Sheldon of ClearWay Minnesota says, “There really has never been any research or any study that has shown e-cigarettes to be effective at helping people quit.”

    Mr. Sheldon is either uninformed, or he’s being disingenuous. Neither speaks very well of ClearWay Minnesota as any sort of authority on the topic of electronic cigarettes:

    Bullen C, C, McRobbie H, Thornley S, Glover M, Lin R, Laugesen M. Effect of an electronic nicotine delivery device (e cigarette) on desire to smoke and withdrawal, user preferences and nicotine delivery: randomised cross-over trial. Tob Control. 2010 Apr;19(2):98-103.

    Caponnetto P, Cibella F, Mancuso S, Campagna D, Arcidiacono G, Polosa R. Effect of a nicotine free inhalator as part of a smoking cessation program. Eur Respir J. 2011 May 12.

    Caponnetto P, Polosa R, Auditore R, Russo C, Campagna D. Smoking Cessation with E-Cigarettes in Smokers with a Documented History of Depression and Recurring Relapses. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2011, 2, 281-284.

    Dockrell M, Indu SD, Lashkari HG, McNeill A. “It sounds like the replacement I need to help me stop smoking”: Use and acceptability of “e-cigarettes among UK smokers. 12th annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco Europe. Bath, UK, 2010.

    Etter JF, Bullen C. Electronic cigarette: users profile, utilization, satisfaction and perceived efficacy. Addiction, 106: 2017–2028.


    Kralikova E, Kubatova S, Truneckova K, Kmetova A, Hajek P. The electronic cigarette: what proportion of smokers have tried it and how many use it regularly? Addiction. 17 May 2012.

    Siegel MB, Tanwar KL, Wood KS. Electronic cigarettes as smoking cessation tool: Results from an Online Survey. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011 Apr; 40(4):472-5.

  • Lynn Youness

    Currently I am doing a thesis on electronic cigarettes, and was frustrated by the lack of data from actual electronic cigarette users. I created a 10 question survey and posted it on a Facebook page of an electronic cigarette retailer with their permission, and in 24 hours I received 319 responses from actual users.

    In the survey I asked people to list the top 3 reasons for switching from traditional tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, and I would like to share those results with you: 61% of the people switched to e-cigs for health reasons (193 people), 34% disliked the smell of cigarettes (109 responses), 29% switched due to the high cost of cigarettes (94 people), and 16% said they wanted to quit smoking tobacco (50 people).

    Of the people that responded, 52.66% were female (168), 41.07% were Male, and 6.27% did not specify their gender. Over 88% of the respondents said they would be a tobacco user if electronic cigarettes were not available, 88.70% to be exact.

    When I asked “What were your reasons for switching to an e-Cigarette? Please be specific.” here are just a few examples of their responses:

    • A 58 year old woman who had been smoking for 35 years and has been vaping for 15 months wrote this in her comments: “I had exhausted all other means of quitting. GUM, PATCHES, CHANTIX …NOTHING WORKED. I was determined to find a way to quit and vaping worked.”

    • A 31 year old male who smoked for 15 years and instead has been vaping for 24 months wrote “I wanted to quit smoking, and had tried a number of times…went cold turkey, tried the patch, gum, chantix. I knew part of my issue was the actual physical motion of smoking along with the nicotine. I had seen an ad online for e-cigarettes, looked into it and figured “why not?” I was able to transition off of regular cigarettes within about 2 weeks or so, with no issue.”

    • A 56 year old female who smoke for 43 years and has been vaping for 19 months wrote “I had wanted to quit for a long time for my health sake. I had tried all the other methods the patches the scripts the gum and none of the worked. I think the Chantax should be removed from the market that stuff is dangerous.”

    • A 44 year old female that smoked for 9 years and has been vaping for 23 months wrote “Tried all methods to quit smoking from traditional to obscure and was not successful. I had smokers cough, high blood pressure and frustration with myself for not being strong enough willed to quit smoking tobacco. Tried an e-cigarette on the advice of a co-worker and was tobacco free within 2 days.”

    • A 78 year old female who smoked for 62 years has been vaping for 13 months, she made the switch because she has COPD and wrote “… I love my e cig. I have stoped coughing so much. And I feel great!!!!! Also I was spending about 50.00 dollars a week on cigarettes now I spend about 40.00 a month on juice. I think that everybody who smokes should try e cigs.”

    These are just a few of the stories that people shared with me on the survey. Many shared personal stories about switching to an electronic cigarette after the death of a family member that was due to lung cancer or COPD. Many more shared stories about how their own personal health improved, how they no longer had shortness of breath, no more coughing, how they had more energy, felt better overall, and on and on and on.

    Please, vote no to any and all sanctions that may impose limitations, restrictions, additional taxes or fees on electronic cigarettes. According to my research, it is estimated that more than 700,000 people are currently using an electronic cigarette as an alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes, or even to help them stop smoking. Please, do it for them…. As a lifelong smoker, I am one of them. I started smoking when I was 13 years old, and at the age of 52 years old, I switched to an electronic cigarette after smoking for 39 years. I have been vaping for 2 years now, and never felt better in my life. My main reason for switching was due to the high cost of cigarettes, and how affordable electronic cigarettes were. Gaining my health back is the reason I continue using my e-cig.

  • They should not do this, electronic cigarettes are not like tobacco products, they are safer when compared with traditional cigarettes.