Oak Park village trustees unanimously approved an ordinance Monday banning the use of electronic cigarettes in indoor public places.
The e-cigarettes, which use a battery powered combustible component to turn liquid nicotine into a smoke-free vapor, have grown in popularity in recent years, and their use indoors has been banned in cities across the country, including Chicago in April.
Under the new ordinance, the e-cigarettes are treated the same as regular cigarettes, requiring so-called "vapers" to step outside before inhaling the nicotine laden mist.
The ordinance, which amends the Clean Indoor Air Act, is effective immediately and includes theaters, restaurants, public transportation facilities and any other place where smoking cigarettes is prohibited.
Margaret Provost-Fyfe, village health director, told village trustees at Monday's meeting that much is unknown about the potential risks of e-cigarettes.
She said they are currently not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but proposed rules from the FDA would restrict e-cigarettes' "oversight, their licensing and all of those issues similar to the way that cigarettes are regulated."
"The big issue with e-cigarettes is that they have not been regulated, so to date there has been no oversight in the manufacturing of these products; essentially the FDA and the public health community don't have a good handle in what's in the e-cigarettes," she said.
Provost-Fyfe submitted a report to the village, noting that quality control in the manufacturing of e-cigarettes is "substandard or non-existent."
"The amount of nicotine and other chemical can vary from cartridge to cartridge," according to the report.
She also said that many of the e-cigarette manufacturers market the products to children, offering various flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, peach schnapps, bubblegum and cola.
"Unfortunately, many individuals who smoke e-cigarettes also are doubling up in terms of smoking, and they're very attractive to youth," she said. "If you look at some of the background data in the (Centers for Disease Control's) recent reports, some youth have been increasingly using these products, and it's felt that this could be an entryway into the use of cigarettes."
Although the village still awaits a report and recommendation from the Board of Public Health, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and others suggested moving forward with the ban.
Abu-Taleb said he has been in a public place sitting next to someone smoking an e-cigarette and wanted to tell them that he didn't want to be exposed to the vapor.
"I don't know if we can protect people from themselves, but we definitely have the obligation to protect people from each other," Abu-Taleb said.
He suggested the village consider imposing a tax on e-cigarettes in the future to "act as a deterrent for someone who wants to set up shop in our community."
"And if they decide this is a good market for them, then the tax could help us generate some revenue, which we can use to benefit our community," he said.
The tax could make it harder for stores to open such as Cignot, which set up shop earlier this year at 101 N. Marion St. The opening of the store, which sells e-cigarettes only, prompted concern from residents due in part to its highly visible location near the Harlem Green Line El stop.
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