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Will New Bill Close Tobacco Loopholes?

April 14, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - If you've checked out new tobacco products lately, you might notice they come in various shapes and forms. The tobacco industry continues to re-invent as the restrictive regulations continue, with little cigars, orbs and strips that appear like breath mints, and even spitless tobacco.

Minnesota State Representative Jim Davnie is introducing the Tobacco Modernization and Compliance Act of 2010, because he says it's time the law caught up with the industry.

"The industry is coming up with creative ways around the technical definition in law of what is a cigarette, to sell things without paying the appropriate tax on cigarettes, when they're selling what is in fact really a cigarette."

The bill would also ensure that new tobacco products are covered by existing regulation, and cannot be sold on the counter next to candy and gum. The industry says some of the recent restrictions on marketing violate the First Amendment.

Davnie says the bill closes the tobacco loophole allowing current products on the market to escape regulations because of technicalities. He says Minnesota's youth are especially vulnerable with the new products that look like candy or breath mints.

"And right now, it's not clear that the industry is prohibited from selling those products to kids. Making sure that this next generation doesn't develop some of the bad habits that my generation did, I think, is critically important."

The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association of Minnesota are rallying at the Capitol today for the bill. They say 634,000 Minnesotans still smoke and the state loses 5500 lives to tobacco annually.

The bill will be heard in the Senate Tax Committee Thursday, April 15.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN