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Snuffed out: Evanston puts cap on E-cigarettes use

Chris Ray, the owner of Cigtechs.com, presents his electronic cigarette and its accessories, Thursday January 27, 2011. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times
Many e-cigarettes are sold at kiosks in malls, like this one for White Cloud cigarettes in the Westfield Fox Valley Mall in Aurora. | Steve Lord~Sun-Times Media

EVANSTON — Evanston City Council members placed Electronic cigarettes in the same category as the real kind Monday, becoming the first community in the area to put restrictions on their us.

Aldermen voted 8-1 Monday night to back a staff recommendation to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places and other sites where other smoking materials are also prohibited.

In the action, aldermen also backed staff’s request to change the city code’s definition of tobacco products to encompass e-cigarettes.

Under now, e-cigarettes could be used in areas that are smoke free and can be sold to people under age 18.

Staff cited concerns about second-hand smoke from the product, which delivers nicotine to the user in the form of a vapor.

In requesting the change, staff cited alerts put out by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Center for Control and Prevention about the effect of nicotine.

“Nicotine affects the nervous system and heart and is addictive,” said staff in language included in the ordinance.

In discussion, Alderman Ann Rainey, the only council member to admit she had been a smoker, questioned why the city was even becoming involved in the issue.

A long time smoker, it had taken her 10 years to quit, said Rainey. “It seems to me every effort humanly possible to help people quit smoking should be encouraged,” she said.

“If a bar or restaurant wants to allow them, then let them (e-cigarette users) duke it out with the other patrons,” she suggested.

But others, such as Alderman Don Wilson, said that with no definitive study on the effect of e-cigarettes in place, the city was acting responsibly by placing restrictions on the product.

“To me it’s a question of public health,” he said. “Trying... their use to particular locations makes sense.”

Alderman Jane Grover said the restrictions should prove a matter of convenience for e-cigarette users too. “It doesn’t have to be where people gather.”

Alderman Coleen Burrus said she has a brother who uses the e-cigarettes. “He’s not allowed to smoke inside. I honestly have a reaction to the vapors coming out,” she said.

During citizen comment, April Bailey representing the Greater Chicago Area Lung Association, said the organization was wholly in support of the city’s ordinance.

“We don’t know what’s in those cigarettes,” she said.

Further, she questioned the impression use of the e-cigarettes was having on others under current law, where they can be used in public places.

“We hear of teachers smoking them in class,” she said.

Jared Yuch, in a business which sells the electronic cigarettes, estimated the alternative has led to some 1,000 people stopping smoking, since he took the job.

Rodney Conforti said he has been “vaping” for six years. He started after a friend brought the product back from China.

“At first I thought it was a joke,” he said.

Before using the product, he said he had a serious tobacco problem, smoking what amounted to two packs a day.

He said use of electronic cigarettes is growing. People see “clouds of smoke coming out. They think it’s smoke but it’s not smoke,” he said.

The approved ordinance makes unlawful for any person to sell, offer, and give away liquid nicotine products within 150 feet from schools.

Persons found in violation can face fines not less than $500 for each offense. In addition, signs should be in place in establishments selling the product, as in tobacco, stating their sale to persons under 18 is unlawful.

Under the new law, Conforti said he won’t be able to “vape” at an office, a retail store. He’s left with “walking in the middle of the street, trying to vape,” he said.

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