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Letter: E-cigarettes don't belong in restaurants

To the editor:

No Minnesota parent wishes they could take their child to a smoke-filled restaurant. But that is what families faced 10 years ago. Smoky haze hung in the air as you ate your meal, stinging your nose and permeating your clothing — and your lungs. But fortunately those days are long in the past. On Oct. 1, 2007, the Freedom to Breathe Act made all bars and restaurants in Minnesota smoke-free.

Now that the law has reached the decade mark, you'd be hard pressed to find many people who miss the smoke-filled eateries of the past. Now I am one of the many grateful restaurants who no longer have to breathe secondhand smoke on the job. After just one month of the smoke-free workplace restrictions being in place, there was an 85 percent drop in exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens among bar and restaurant workers like myself who don't smoke. The benefits go beyond hospitality workers, of course, with all Minnesotans benefiting from less exposure to secondhand smoke.

Our neighbors in Pope and Stevens counties recently added e-cigarettes to county clean indoor air policies. There is no state law prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in bars and restaurants, but there should be, considering that e-cigarette aerosol contains heavy metals, formaldehyde and other toxic ingredients. It's also unfortunate that young people are exposed not only to the aerosol but to the behavior — which may tempt them to try e-cigarettes. I hope Alexandria will also amend its clean indoor air policies to keep people from using e-cigarettes where they already can't smoke.

After 10 years, our customers don't know what a smoking section is. Families don't have to worry about breathing in toxic chemicals when they come in to enjoy a meal. And I can do my job while breathing fresh air. Now that's what I call freedom!

Matthew Jensen

La Ferme

Alexandria, MN

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