CHICAGO (CBS) — Starting Tuesday, it’s illegal to smoke an electronic cigarette inside virtually all public buildings in Chicago.
Earlier this year, the City Council voted to add e-cigarettes to the city’s indoor smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, and inside most other public buildings. Effective Tuesday, use of e-cigarettes has been added to that ban. Only private homes and vehicles, designated smoking rooms at hotels, and retail tobacco shops are exempt.
New York and San Francisco also have extended their smoking bans to e-cigarettes.
Supporters of the ban have said, while e-cigarettes do not use tobacco or emit smoke, they can be every bit as addictive as traditional cigarettes, and even more enticing to minors. The devices heat liquid containing nicotine and various flavors to produce vapor, which is inhaled to simulate smoking without the actual smoke, ash, or combustion of traditional cigarettes.
Joel Africk, president of the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, applauded the new ordinance.
“Laboratory studies have shown that e-cigarette vapor contains chemicals such as nicotine, formaldehyde, arsenic,” he said.
The Emanuel administration proposed the ban, arguing e-cigarettes are targeted to minors, and serve as a gateway product to nicotine addiction.
“There are obviously public health concerns around the chemicals in the vapor, but what’s more troubling to me is the fact that it makes smoking cool again,” said Ald. Will Burns (4th).
Supporters have said studies indicate 10 percent of junior high and high school students have tried e-cigarettes.
Opponents of the ban have said there is no proof e-cigarettes lead to smoking traditional cigarettes, and that they instead serve as a way for people to quit smoking and avoid the health risks associated with tobacco.
According to Matt Nocifora, a representative from Chicago-based ProSmoke E-Cigarettes, “The indoor smoking ban in major cities, including Chicago, is an unfortunate example of Government imposing needless regulations without proper research or information.”
“These decisions to quickly enact laws that limit e-cigarette usage, with absolutely no substantiation or scientific evidence, is short-sided and not what our local business owners, service industries, and smokers deserve from our politicians,” he said.
Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, acknowledged e-cigarettes are a healthier option for smokers, but said they still need to follow the law.
“If adults want to smoke e-cigarettes, it’s better for them to smoke e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. They can absolutely continue to do that from the from the comfort of their own home, from places where people can smoke cigarettes,” he said.
The city’s new rules for e-cigarettes also require retailers to sell them from behind the counter to make it harder for minors to buy them. The state prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under age 18, just like traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products.