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With city approval, ban on e-cigarettes in public places to start next week

The Austin City Council approved a one-year e-cigarette moratorium banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places and businesses during its public meeting Monday.

Council members voted 4-3, with Janet Anderson, Steve King, Jeremy Carolan and Roger Boughton in favor of the ordinance, and Jeff Austin, Judy Enright and Michael Jordal voted against it.

The council voted the same at the moratorium ordinance’s first reading on March 17. An ordinance for a moratorium requires a unanimous vote during its first reading and a simple majority on its second reading.

The e-cigarette moratorium will go into effect about one week after the city publishes a legal notice of the council’s decision. City Clerk Ann Kasel said the moratorium could go into effect on April 17.

The moratorium bans e-cigarette use in public places, similar to tobacco products. It does not prevent e-cigarettes from being sold or used on private property. The council also approved on Monday a one-year moratorium on hookah use in public places.

E-cigarettes are a cylindrical device used to heat nicotine and produce a vapor. They have been on the market for about five years and haven’t undergone thorough testing by the Food and Drug Administration. Public health experts say e-cigarettes are filled with an unknown amount of nicotine and other chemicals. E-cigarette proponents say e-cigarettes have helped people quit smoking, though the FDA doesn’t classify them as a tobacco cessation tool.

Austin isn’t the only community discussing e-cigarette use this year. Cities across Minnesota have discussed e-cigarette regulations over the past few months. State legislators are discussing whether to add e-cigarettes to the state Clean Indoor Air Act, which would ban e-cigarettes in public places similar to other tobacco products. The measure has already passed Senate committees and a House committee discussed a stripped-down version of the bill. Gov. Mark Dayton opposed e-cigarette regulations last month when he said tobacco users had already been hit hard by the 2013 cigarette tax increase.

The Senate measure, which was set to go to a floor vote, was pushed back into committee.