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Prior Lake City Council weighs legal ramifications of proposed tobacco ordinance

The Prior Lake City Council discussed a proposed tobacco ordinance change during its first work session of the new year, ultimately deciding to hold a public hearing and gather more feedback on the proposal to ban flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products.

At its December meeting, the council enacted a tobacco moratorium which prohibits any new businesses from selling flavored vape products while the council considers if the products should be banned within the city. The conversation stemmed from a recent application for a tobacco license by a new smoke shop in Prior Lake.

During the Jan. 4 meeting, city staff brought forth proposed language for the council to consider which bans “flavored vaping materials which are defined as all flavors except tobacco and menthol and all materials for use or able to be used to vaporize and/or aerosolize substances for inhalation. Flavored vaping products include but are not limited to the following flavored items: e-cigarettes, vapes, cartridges, pods, tanks mods, juices and liquids,” city documents state.

While the language is more in line with the goals of the council which previously discussed at length its concern on the effect of vaping on local youth, they must also consider the legal ramifications that such a ban could bring about. Like other Minnesota cities, should Prior Lake pursue the ban they could be sued by a local business owner or a large tobacco company.

City Manager Jason Wedel noted that the city has received two letters, one from the attorney representing the Prior Lake tobacco store owner asking the city not to ban any products and another from the Minnesota Retailers Association asking more specifically for the city to allow the sale of flavored vape products.

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