If his father had switched from regular cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, he might still be alive today, Evanston resident James Gottschalk told city council members Monday.
Along with other supporters and users of e-cigarettes, Gottschalk spoke up Monday night against proposed restrictions on smoking e-cigarettes, or “vaping.” City council members are considering amending the Evanston ordinance on tobacco to include electronic cigarettes and prohibit their use in all places where other types of smoking are banned.
Only a handful of other municipalities in the U.S. have passed such legislation, and few if any in Illinois, although many cities are considering passing similar ordinances to the one on the table in Evanston. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration has said it will issue proposed regulations on the sale, advertising and ingredients of electronic cigarettes by the end of October.
“It is pre-emptive,” said Gottschalk, whose father died of complications from emphysema and long-term smoking last year. “For us to restrict other individuals from having access to a product like that is very wrong.”
While the ordinance amending the city’s tobacco code was scheduled for a vote Monday night, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz told council members that the ordinance was not complete, and asked them to hold off on voting for two weeks.
If passed, the ordinance would also limit sale of electronic cigarettes to minors under the age of 18. Gottschalk and other supporters of electronic cigarettes said they would support a ban on sales to minors.
Speaking on behalf of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives (CASAA), Lincolnwood resident Michael Cozzi explained that the proposed ordinance would force ex-tobacco smokers to “vape” in the same places where other tobacco users smoke. Practically speaking, that means they would be exposed to the smoke they were trying to avoid by quitting regular cigarettes and switching to e-cigarettes.
Cozzi said he had smoked tobacco from the age of 14 until he smoked his last cigarette on June 5, 2010. Electronic cigarettes are motivating for tobacco smokers who want to quit, he said, in part because they do not produce smoke and also because they are allowed in more places than traditional cigarettes.
“If you relegate electronic cigarettes to the same classification as tobacco cigarettes…you’re taking away the motivation of people who want to get off tobacco,” Cozzi said.
He and other supporters also told council members that they believe electronic cigarettes are significantly healthier than tobacco cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat up a liquid solution, vaporizing the material and delivering nicotine to the user in a water-based mist, according to CASAA. They may look like traditional cigarettes, pens or small flashlights.
Traditional cigarettes cause cancer because of the chemicals created when the cigarette is burned, according to the American Lung Association. Meanwhile, electronic cigarettes do not generate that smoke, but simply create a watery mist. They still contain nicotine, however—meaning they are also addictive, just like regular cigarettes.
The American Food and Drug Administration states that the health effects of e-cigarettes are not fully studied, and therefore, consumers should avoid them. However, Cozzi and others cited recent studies that appear to show e-cigarettes may not be all bad. Researchers at Drexel University recently concluded that the chemicals released from electronic cigarettes do not pose significant hazards to bystanders, while Boston University scientists showed that e-cigarettes may be a good tool for quitting tobacco.
“Essentially, there are no risks whatsoever to people who are near vapers,” said Evanston resident Tom Kendall. “I just don’t understand why we would be considering such an ordinance, especially because nowhere else has it.”