City Council votes to ban e-cigs where smoking is prohibited - FOX 32 News Chicago

City Council votes to ban e-cigs where smoking is prohibited

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The masses who huddle outside Chicago restaurants, bars and buildings to smoke is about to get bigger — e-cigarette smokers will have to join that ostracized group, the Sun-Times reports.

After a smoldering debate, the City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to ban e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited, to move them behind the counter of retail stores and to snuff out sales to minors. The vote was 45-to-4.

Last month, a surprise City Council uprising forced the mayor to settle for the weaker of two ordinances designed to curb teen smoking.

Aldermen from across the city questioned whether the vapors from e-cigarettes are any more dangerous to bystanders than a humidifier, a cup of tea or a pot full of boiling water used to cook pasta.

They further argued that the ban would discourage smokers from using e-cigarettes to kick the habit.

On Wednesday, those same concerns were raised again.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) noted that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to "render guidance" on how e-cigarettes should be regulated. Reilly said he would "like to hear from federal experts before we go an implement another ban" in Chicago.

Like the mayor, Reilly is the son of a doctor. "Big Tobacco has killed members of my family, too," Reilly said.

He's also a smoker who's using e-cigarettes to try and kick the deadly habit.

"You lose me when you want to treat a product many people are using as an alternative to quit just like the product they want to get away from," Reilly said.

"This would place vaper users on the curb right next to the folks smoking. That, to me, does not make a lot of sense."

He added, "I wouldn't wish a nicotine addiction on my worst enemy. But I can tell you tobacco addiction kills people, and I'm looking for any possible product to get away from tobacco that's killing people."

Ald. Rey Colon (35th) said he's trying to kick a nicotine habit he's had since 8th grade.

"I bought an e-cigarette on Nov. 2 and I have not smoked since. I put my four packs of Camel in my humidor, and there they sat. For me, it's worked as a harm-reduction device," he said.

Colon then took aim at Emanuel who has framed the fight against e-cigarettes as a good-vs.-evil battle to protect Chicago's children. That's the same argument the mayor used to champion speed cameras and school closings.

"We keep using children as an excuse to pass any ordinance we want to pass — and it bugs me," Colon said.

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), the City Council's elder statesman and anti-smoking champion, countered that Big Tobacco is using e-cigarettes, many of them flavored, to "attract a whole new generation" of smokers.

That's apparently why the Centers for Disease Control has estimated that 10 percent of high school students used e-cigarettes in 2012, more than double high school usage the year before.

Ald. Will Burns (4th), co-sponsor of the e-cigarette ordinance, noted that all of the progress made by raising cigarette taxes sky-high, banning cigarette advertising and moving smoking outdoors could be reversed by e-cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes normalize smoking … It's cool to smoke again. That's the wrong message….Maybe [kids] think, `Hey, I'm impervious. I can smoke an e-cigarette and, the next thing we know, they're smoking a real cigarette," Burns said.

The ordinance approved Wednesday would regulate e-cigarettes as "tobacco products" subject to Chicago's smoking ban.

That will move them behind the counter of retail stores, ban the sale to minors, prohibit adults from smoking e-cigarettes in virtually all of indoor Chicago — and within 15 feet of building entrances — and empower the city to license e-cigarette dealers.

It's the latest in a series of recent measures to tighten the noose on smokers.

Emanuel has previously raised the city's cigarette tax by 50 cents — to $7.17 a pack, the highest in the nation — and snuffed out the sale of menthol and flavored tobacco products within 500 feet Chicago schools.

After the vote, Emanuel argued that the Food and Drug Administration "leads from behind" and he's not about to wait for that follower federal bureaucracy to when it comes to protecting the health and safety of Chicago's children.

"In about three weeks, we're going to issue some regulations on petcoke. There is no federal oversight. Should we wait? We're going to take a leadership [role] on natural gas going through tankers while other cities are struggling. Should we wait?" the mayor said.

"The children of Chicago should not be figured in the bottom line of the tobacco companies. This is a $2 billion market and growing…We are going to lead where the regulatory agencies have not…. If the FDA issues something later, you always reserve the right to go back and look at what you just did."

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