Chicago votes to ban e-cigarettes

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago's City Council has approved a proposal that would limit the use of electronic cigarettes.

Aldermen voted Wednesday to expand the city's regulation of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, barring their use in offices, indoor public areas and within a certain distance of building entrances.

Electronic cigarettes are metal or plastic battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. Users get nicotine without the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are usually loaded with nicotine cartridges that give off an odorless vapor, instead of smoke, but supporters of the ban expressed fears the devices are a health risk.

Ald. Edward Burke, the lead sponsor of the measure, said e-cigarettes might be harmful, and allowing people to smoke them indoors would send the wrong message.

“The use of these e-cigarettes is being glamorized, and has the potential to reverse decades of progress that’s been made to reduce smoking, and its associated health concerns,” he said.

Opponents of the plan said there’s no evidence that shows the vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful like second-hand smoke, or even how it compares to smoking traditional tobacco products. They also said the city is now banning the use of a product that some smokers use in an effort to kick the habit.

Ald. Brendan Reilly was among the no votes. He said he’s trying to quit smoking, and is using e-cigarettes to try to wean himself off nicotine.

“You lose me when you want to treat a product that many people are using for cessation – using it as an alternative to quit – when you’re treating it just like the product they’re trying to get away from,” he said.

The measure approved Wednesday also requires electronic cigarettes to be sold behind the counter of stores. The Emanuel administration has said the measure is intended to make it more difficult for kids to obtain electronic cigarettes — a goal even opponents of the ban on indoor use of e-cigarettes said they support.

The state already prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18, just like cigarettes and other tobacco products.

At shops like Smoque in the South Loop, e-cigarettes are prominently displayed to see and touch.

The new city law requires e-cigs to be moved behind the counter to block access for kids.

The store owner calls that overkill.

“There’s already a law that passed January 1st in Illinois, you can’t sell to children. We never sell to anyone under 18,” said owner Jared Yacht.


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