Vaping, smoking now the same under Wilmette regulations

Wilmette joined a growing number of communities this week when it banned the sale of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to teens under the age of 18, and prohibited people from using the devices anywhere in the village that traditional cigarettes are banned.

Trustees unanimously and without comment approved the use and sale prohibitions when they met Sept. 9, based on recommendations from the board’s judiciary committee. The bans, which take place immediately, add Wilmette to a list of municipalities, including Evanston, Oak Park, Bolingbrook and Arlington Heights, that regulate e-cigarettes.

Regulating so-called “e-cigs” was an easy choice, Village Trustee and judiciary committee chairman Mike Basil said Thursday, not only because of the nicotine that they still deliver to direct users, but because of the potential health risks non-users could be exposed to from the vapors that escape from the tiny machines.

Electronic cigarettes turn nicotine-infused liquids, usually stored in a small cartridge inside the device, into vapor. Users can then “vape” – inhale the vapors – in a practice that supporters say avoids many of traditional cigarette’s drawbacks, such as containing tar.

“Take into consideration that it’s still a nicotine delivery device, and nicotine is still a scheduled substance,” Basil said Sept. 11.

He also compared the vapors to second hand cigarette smoke, saying, “I don’t, frankly, care what ingredients they’re putting in them. I didn’t ask them to put it into my breathable air when it comes out in vapor form.”

Large cigarette corporations that make and sell the devices and their components have steered clear of advertising them as healthier than paper-and-tobacco cigarettes, but smaller producers have not, Basil said. He added that many producers, large and small, market flavored “e-liquids” that health professionals worry are far too attractive to children and teens.

Basil said one company’s 2013 marketing campaign, featuring a “let it glow,” slogan for its products, “was undeniably targeted at children, with its similarity to the song ‘Let It Go,’ from the film “Frozen.” If that’s not one of the most offensive, blatant efforts to get kids to try a potentially dangerous and addictive product, I don’t know what is.”

While current federal law doesn’t regulate electronic cigarettes, plans are in the works for tighter FDA regulations. Illinois regulates their sale and use.

Bans like Wilmette’s have proliferated across the metropolitan area in 2014. Chicago banned e-cigarettes in restaurants, bars and most indoor public places in January; Cook County banned them from all county property, including courthouses in May, and the CTA followed suit in June, banning their use on all CTA property except for bus stops. The Chicago park district banned e-cigarettes along with regular cigarettes one day after Wilmette trustees voted.

However, not all area communities have regulated e-cigarettes. Neighboring Kenilworth and Winnetka, as well as Skokie and Buffalo Grove have yet to enact any legislation, according to a report from Wilmette corporation counsel Michael Zimmerman.

Basil said he did not know how many Wilmette businesses sell electronic cigarettes or e-cigarette supplies, but said “you can get them at a lot of convenience stores.”

By Kathy Routliffe,

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