City Council Bans Indoor Use of Electronic Cigarettes

(Photo/Lindsay Fox)
(Photo/Lindsay Fox)

By Emily Gray Brosious
Originally published at Gapers Block
Jan. 15, 2014

The Chicago City Council voted today to ban electronic cigarette use in most indoor public spaces, including bars and restaurants, and within 15 feet of building entrances.

The measure will also require e-cigarettes to be retailed behind the counter to make it harder for minors to purchase the product.

45 aldermen voted in favor of the ban, which was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Only four aldermen, Roderick Sawyer (6th), Rey Colon (35th), Nicholas Sposato (36th) and Brendan Reilly (42nd), voted in opposition to the measure.

Today’s City Council vote follows Monday’s vote by the City Council’s Health and Finance Committee, which supported the e-cigarette ban 15-5.

Supporters say the ban is an important step towards protecting Chicago’s youth from an addictive habit that could harm their health.

“Regulating e-cigarettes will protect our children from getting hooked on their kid-friendly flavors and marketing,” Mayor Emanuel said in a press release. “This ordinance stands up for our children while ensuring all residents have the right to clean air and healthy environment.”

“The passage of this ordinance not only applies smoking restrictions to electronic cigarettes, but also serves as a pathway to reduce the normalization of smoking that lures young people to using tobacco and/or e-cigarettes, and hook another generation on nicotine,” said supporter Ald. Will Burns (4th).

Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said this measure sends a strong message that Chicago puts children and clean air first.

“We hope that our action will serve as an example to other cities looking for ways to ensure their youth remain healthy and tobacco free,” Choucair said.

Critics of the measure say e-cigarettes don’t merit an indoor ban because they don’t produce smoke and therefore don’t pose second-hand smoke dangers. Opponents also say the ban will make it harder for those who use e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

“We’re talking about treating two different products like they’re one, like they’re combustible cigarettes,” said opposing Ald. Brendan Reilly.

Matthew Glans, senior policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based free-market think tank, criticized the ban as “A lazy and shortsighted approach toward regulating what is a very different product than cigarettes.”

“E-cigarettes have far fewer consequences for personal and public health, and several studies have found e-cigarettes to be an effective and viable option for smokers seeking a nicotine replacement therapy,” Glans said.

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