Regulate First and Ask Questions Later

Chicago City Council members are set to ban indoor e-cigarette smoking without clear scientific evidence that the vapor emitted from electronic cigarettes is harmful.

City Council members in Chicago advanced a plan on Monday, which is backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to treat e-cigarettes like any other tobacco product. E-cigarettes would not be allowed inside public places such as restaurants, bars and other buildings under the Chicago’s Clean Indoor Air Act.

An earlier version of the ordinance only prohibited people from smoking e-cigarettes loaded with nicotine cartridges. However, several council members complained it would be impossible for anyone to tell whether an e-cigarette had nicotine in it. On Wednesday, the version the full council will consider makes no distinction between e-cigarettes containing nicotine and those without.

Conversely, many council members argued there is no clear scientific evidence that the vapor emitted from electronic cigarettes is harmful. Many scientists got themselves published and gained notoriety by preaching the dangers of secondhand smoke, however flimsy the evidence. As of yet, there has not been a study that has made the quantum leap in logic to prove the dangers of simple water vapor.   

Ald. Rey Colon of the 35th district expressed his concerns over slippery slopes of logic used for political gain stating: “It is a ban, because you’re making people go outside, you’re treating it just as you would an analogue cigarette or tobacco cigarette. You’re lumping it together in the same category even though you don’t really have any proof that it has any harm.”

“You’re saying ‘We’re going to regulate first and ask questions later,’ ” Colon added. Brendan Reilly, 42nd district, also suggested the City Council put off a vote on indoor e-smoking in public places until a scientific consensus has been reached. “I’m certainly not here to defend Big Tobacco. They’ve done enough harm in this country,” Reilly (who smokes) said.

“But I do have friends and family members who are using (e-cigarettes) to quit, to get away from combustible tobacco that kills people,” Reilly concluded. Nevertheless, the measure passed 15-5 with the mayor’s lobbyists pulling aside council members for private chats and several administration officials looking on before the vote.

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