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CHICAGO -- Add Chicago to the growing list of cities that now include electronic cigarettes in their smoking bans.
In a 45-to-4 vote, the Chicago City Council approved a measure to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars and most other indoor public places in the city. The measure also requires retailers to sell e-cigarettes from behind the counter, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has recently focused on tobacco regulations. The council first took up the issue of including e-cigarettes in the city's existing smoking ban in December.
Chicago's move follows similar measures in other municipalities where local officials are filling a gap in rules as they wait for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue federal regulations. New York City became the largest city to pass a nearly identical ban when council members there voted 43-to-8 to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in locations such as restaurants, bars and city parks where smoking is already banned, as CSNews Online previously reported. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the measure into law on Dec. 31, his last day in office.
On Wednesday, Emanuel said Chicago can't wait for the FDA to take a position on the safety of the products, the Tribune reported. "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."
However, Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward), a smoker, continued to oppose the indoor ban on e-cigarettes. Reilly, who said he's using e-cigarettes to help himself quit, likened e-cigarettes to needle exchanges for heroin addicts and said they help reduce the harm smokers suffer by offering a product safer than conventional cigarettes, according to the newspaper.
"We're talking about treating two different products like they're one, like they're combustible cigarettes," Reilly said.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY also disagreed with the passage of Chicago's measure.
"NJOY is disappointed to learn of the Chicago passage of the provision to include electronic cigarettes under the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. 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 e-cigarette maker said in a statement immediately following the vote.
The move will only benefit Big Tobacco, the e-cigarette manufacturer argued. "Today, Big Tobacco has no greater ally than supporters of initiatives like this one. With as many as 43 million smokers remaining in the United States and over 420,000 of them expected to die prematurely in the coming year, it is paramount that we not confuse an increasingly effective solution that gives smokers an alternative to toxic and deadly 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," NJOY concluded.