Chicago became the second city of a different sort Wednesday when city leaders voted to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in public indoor areas, following a similar measure passed by New York City officials last month.
The Chicago City Council voted 45-4, according to reports, in favor of the regulation, which requires users of the popular devices to stand a minimum of 15 feet away from the entrance of all public buildings, the same rules that have existed for tobacco cigarettes for more than a decade. Also, vendors will now be required to place e-cigarettes behind counters in an effort to keep them away from children.
“I applaud City Council in their efforts to ensure the health and safety of Chicago's youth as we continue the fight against Big Tobacco,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a written statement. “Regulating e-cigarettes will protect our children from getting hooked on their kid-friendly flavors and marketing. This ordinance stands up for our children while ensuring all residents have the right to clean air and healthy environment.”
Illinois passed a bill last August banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, after growing concerns from anti-smoking advocates that some e-cig makers were specifically marketing their product to children by offering cartridges in sweet flavors.
E-cigarettes have been at the center of a growing controversy in recent years as proponents defend them as a safe alternative to using tobacco cigarettes, contending the nicotine solution that is turned into vapor and inhaled through the devices pose less health risk to users than the harmful chemicals known to be in cigarette smoke.
Health experts and anti-smoking advocates say not enough is known about the potential health risks involved in long-term use of e-cigs, calling for more testing and regulation of the devices to ensure they are safe to use. To that end, both critics and supporters still await guidance from the Food and Drug Administration
, which many expect will regulate e-cigs as a tobacco product.
A number of state and local governments across the country have begun to regulate e-cigs in anticipation of federal oversight. Currently, laws banning the use of e-cigarettes in public places have been passed Utah, North Dakota and New Jersey, while similar measures are being considered in Los Angeles. Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson