On Monday, Dec. 9 the Chicago City Council’s joint committee Finance; Health and Environmental Protection held a hearing about the proposed ecig ordinance which would subject ecigs to the Clean Indoor Air Act.
There were about 15 vapers and vape shop owners there to show their opposition to the ordinance, and were prepared to testify. The meeting began at 12 noon with a description of the ordinance. Alderman Brendan Reilly is a smoker who recently bought ecigs to make the switch from tobacco cigarettes. He demonstrated how they work for Council members who aren’t familiar with ecigs.
From their statements and arguments, it was very clear that several Aldermen do not know the facts about ecigs. The alderman that wrote the ordinance believes Chicago should differentiate between ecigarettes with nicotine and those without. One Alderman asked him how that could be enforced when the two look identical. He didn’t have an answer for that.
Those in support of the ordinance had these concerns:
- “Fun” flavors. This was brought up several times. They think that flavors like cherry, chocolate and gummy bears are meant to attract children.
- The FDA hasn’t approved ecigs. Supporters are concerned that since the FDA doesn’t have ecigs completely figured out, we should be cautious in allowing people to use ecigs in places that smoking is banned.
- Second-hand vapor. The Commissioner said that whatever chemicals the vaper is inhaling, he is also exposing to everyone around him.
- They seem to think that nicotine is the harmful part of cigarettes. They don’t realize that nicotine has been shown about as harmful as caffeine in a cup of coffee.
After answering questions from City Council members, they heard from experts. The problem was that all their experts were in support of the ordinance. One Alderman pointed out that they failed to get expert testimony from those opposed to it. Of the 15 or so people who came to testify against it, only one was asked to speak. Michael Haynes brought up several points clarifying where they are wrong and said to the Council “ask any adult you know and tell me that they don’t know one adult that doesn’t like gummy bears.” He spoke about how he struggled to get off tobacco and how switching over has greatly improved his health.
Another Alderman told him you can’t have it both ways – you can’t tax cigarettes one day, and then say to the people who are trying to quit – too bad for you, you can’t vape either, Another Alderman said it sounded like the ordinance would be punishing people who are trying not to smoke. Another Council member said it seems like they are trying to protect people who don’t need protection.
The debate got pretty heated at one point. An Alderman who clearly knows what she’s talking about asked how can they regulate a product that they don’t even understand. The Commissioner said they were going to figure out the ordinance first, and then get to know the product. She said if you ban water vapor, then any restaurant boiling pasta would be in violation of the Clear Indoor Air Act.
Here’s the thing. Ecigs are meant as an alternative to smoking. We don’t want non-smokers vaping. We don’t want children vaping. That’s not the point. The point is that ecigs are a better alternative to smoking tobacco. They’re better for the user and everyone around them. There is no such thing as second-hand vapor.
The hearing ended about 2:45pm and the committee voted to ban sales of menthol and flavored tobacco within 500 feet of Chicago schools. On Wednesday, Dec. 11 they will discuss adding e-cigs to the Clean Indoor Air Act.
Help us get the Chicago City Council to understand the benefits of ecigs and why they should rewrite the ordinance. Click here for a list of the Chicago Aldermen. Call them, and if you don’t get through, leave a voicemail message. And then email them too. Give them the facts about ecigs, share studies that support our case, and tell them how e-cigarettes have helped you. You can find factual, unbiased reports on the CASAA website. The more people who rally together the better.