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County Board again tables e-cig issue

The McLeod County Board has once again tabled a decision on amending its tobacco ordinance to include other nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes.
While some may see tabling an issue a second time as indecisive and evasive, we feel it is prudent. Any time a government body considers adopting or amending an ordinance that regulates social or health issues, it needs to take careful and thoughtful steps. Social and health ordinances affect not only the public, but personal lifestyle choices. The government needs to tread carefully and find a balance between regulation and personal rights.
Whenever we try to regulate people’s personal choices, we head down a slippery slope. Setting a legal age for smoking eventually led to ordinances and statutes banning smoking from public and work places. Now, we are trying to find a way to regulate e-cigarettes. Once we limit access to those products, manufacturers will find new products and ways to get around the ordinances and laws, and we will once again find ourselves trying to close the gaps with new and amended legislation.
Erin Simmons of the American Lung Association told the County Board at its Nov. 4 meeting that five years ago, e-cigarettes weren’t considered a serious issue because of the cost. That has changed dramatically. Five years from now, what new product will we have to address?
On the other hand, Simmons pointed out that e-cigarette use among teens doubled within a school year, and then doubled again the next year.
And the County Board heard Nov. 17 that 12.9 percent of teens in Minnesota have tried e-cigarettes, a considerably higher percentage than the national average of 2.8 percent.
Those are alarming statistics, no doubt, particularly when the potential health effects of e-cigarettes may not be known for decades.
But what is the solution? More regulation or better education? How do we help people make better choices? By restricting access or educating them on the potential risks?
Good luck with this one, county commissioners. No matter your decision, you will likely be both praised and criticized.
But thank you for taking your time and giving this issue prudent thought and consideration; in the end, you will hopefully find that fine line between over-regulation and protecting our citizens from potential harm to to their health.