Chicago Could Add E-Cigarettes to City Smoking Ban

Users of electronic cigarettes could soon find themselves subject to Chicago's smoking ban.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is backing an ordinance that would expand the city's regulation of tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, preventing their use in smoke-free areas. It will be introduced at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The battery-powered devices heat a nicotine solution to create a vapor that users inhale. Their popularity among young people has raised concerns among public health officials.

“Preventing youth from taking up smoking is a key strategy in lowering smoking rates overall and improving the health of Chicagoans,” Emanuel said in a statement. “E-cigarettes, as well as flavored products, are gateway tobacco products targeted at our kids."

The ordinance would regulate e-cigarettes as "tobacco products" pending further regulations from the Food and Drug Administration.

If the ordinance is passed, Chicago would become the first major city to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products.

"We know far too little about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes and it makes good sense to keep them out of the hands of children," said Ald Will Burns, 4th Ward.

A similar ordinance was passed in Evanston earlier this month.

Authorities in Illinois and other states have accused manufactures of marketing e-cigarettes to children and taking advantage of a lack of federal age restrictions preventing children from obtaining e-cigarettes.

Meanwhile, two county jails in southern Illinois have moved to allow inmates to use electronic cigarettes. Other counties were said to be considering following suit.

Another Chicago ordinance to be introduced next week would prohibit the sale of menthol-flavored tobacco products within 500 feet of Chicago schools.

The Chicago City Council recently held a hearing on a cigarette tax that would make the combined federal, state, county and city tax rate $7.42 a pack-- the highest in the nation.

The tax is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 2014 budget, which the full council is expected to vote on.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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