Less than one month after New York City extended its indoor smoking ban to electronic cigarettes, Chicago is following suit.
E-cigarettes have become an increasingly popular method for smoking, presenting a headache for many indoor facilities and workplace issues for employers. They’re marketed as healthier tobacco alternatives that don’t contain harmful additives or produce offending odors, but there is little scientific data establishing the products’ safety or their effect on public health.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has found evidence that at least some vapor samples contain carcinogens, has promised regulatory action on the products in the near future. But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) decided that it was important for the city to get ahead of the federal agency.
“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,” said Emanuel in a press statement. “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.”
Many e-cigarette critics have pointed out that they can have a harmful effect on impressionable children who may see people smoking indoors. In fact, four Democratic U.S. senators slammed last weekend’s Golden Globes ceremony for showing numerous celebrities puffing on e-cigarettes during the opening number and various other parts of the show.
“The Golden Globes celebrates entertainers who are an influence on young fans,” wrote Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Ed Markey (D-MA) in a letter to the Hollywood Foreign Press. “We ask the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and NBC Universal to take actions to ensure that future broadcasts of the Golden Globes do not intentionally feature images of e-cigarettes.”
E-cig makers such as NJOY sharply criticized Chicago’s ban. “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 told CSP Daily News in a 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.”
Contrary to NJOY’s statement, however, the tobacco industry is already intimately involved with e-cigarettes. Some of the biggest names in Big Tobacco — including Lorillard, the third-largest tobacco company in America, and Marlboro — are already manufacturing and selling e-cigarettes or plan to do so in the near future.