Chicago Passes Indoor Electronic Cigarette Ban

Aldermen, e-cig companies express disappointment

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanue

CHICAGO -- Despite a brief setback in December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has succeeded in banning electronic cigarette use in restaurants, bars and most other indoor public places in Chicago. The Emanuel-backed measure, which also requires electronic cigarettes be sold behind the sales counter, passed on Wednesday, with only four alderman out of 49 voting against it.

Even though the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to propose deeming regulations on the new segment in the very near future, The Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel said the city could not--and should not--wait on the agency's decision.

"Having worked with the FDA, having encouraged them to take steps to protect individuals and children, they are usually an agency that leads from behind," Emanuel said. "And when it comes to the city of Chicago, when it comes to the people of the city of Chicago, when it comes to the children of the city of Chicago, I do not believe we should wait."

Aldermen Roderick Sawyer, Rey Colon, Nicholas Sposato and Brendan Reilly disagreed with Emanuel's sentiments, voting against the ordinance.

Reilly, who said he used e-cigs to quit smoking himself, was particularly vocal in his dissent. "We're talking about treating two different products like they're one, like they're combustible cigarettes," he said.

Politicians like Reilly weren't the only ones disappointed. Executives with Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY voiced their disapproval of the vote to CSP Daily News.

"This vote lacks any scientific basis and reflects a clear misunderstanding on the part of the City Council of the serious unintended consequences to public health that their actions will cause," the company said in a written statement. "Make no mistake. This will only benefit Big Tobacco and is a step backward in the fight against the tobacco epidemic. Today, Big Tobacco has no greater ally than supporters of initiatives like this one."

The statement added that with so many combustible cigarette smokers still in the marketplace, "it is paramount that we not confuse an increasingly effective solution that gives smokers an alternative to combustible tobacco cigarettes with the problem of tobacco cigarette smoking. History and science will judge harshly those who abandon science, undermine the public health and prolong the tobacco epidemic."