Chicago aldermen stall Emanuel`s e-cigarette ordinance - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Aldermen stall e-cigarette ordinance, mayor continues fight for regulations

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to regulate the sales of e-cigarettes, and snuff out the sales of menthol and flavored tobacco products in the wider area around schools, got a chilly reception in the city council this week.

So Tuesday, the mayor came out with a bruising yet compassionate sounding plea for the stricter controls on e-cigarette sales in Chicago.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined forces with Aldermen Will Burns (4th) and Edward Burke (14th) to target products used to lure teen smokers into a lifetime addiction.

His plan essentially treats e-cigarettes just like plain old tobacco cigarettes. They would be sold from behind the counter, no sales to minors, and smoking them, or "vaping" as it's called, would be banned where cigarette smoking is already banned.

The mayor says making them easily accessible to children would be putting kids on the path toward smoking tobacco, exactly what the tobacco giants want.

"There's a moral clarity. Big tobacco is not interested in the future of these children except as consumers. We are interested in them as children," Mayor Emanuel said.

The second ordinance would prohibit the sale of menthol flavored tobacco products within 500 feet of Chicago schools. That's five times the existing radius.

The mayor made his remarks in a sit-down interview with FOX32 News, shortly after receiving an award from a national anti-tobacco group which wants other cities to follow in Chicago's path.

"The country is watching. The country is waiting to see what Chicago is going to do, how far Chicago is going to push back," Carol McGruder of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.

But it's several city council members who pushed back this week, like first ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, For one, he fears restrictions on e-cigarettes will help the big tobacco companies by eliminating smaller competitors who are producing alternatives to tobacco.

Ald. Moreno said, "If you look at big tobacco, you're talking about three massive companies, that's it. When you look at vaping, you're talking about hundreds of smaller companies that are manufacturing this."

Moreno does favor the mayor's steps to keep e-cigarettes from children, but sees no reason to prohibit adults from using them.

I've had many constituents who are using this vaping, e-cigarette if you will, to get themselves off of traditional cigarettes which are much more harmful," Moreno said.

But the city's top health official say the e-cigarettes may be harmful, to their users, or others.

"What we do know is there's no evidence that e-cigarettes are safe. There's actually a growing body of evidence that shows that the vapor that's emitted from e-cigarettes can contain harmful toxins," Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair said.

The mayor crackdown coincides with a cigarette tax hike of 75 cents, which Choucair said was a "life-saving measure" that will persuade kids — the "most price-sensitive consumers ever" — to quit smoking or avoid taking their first puff.

The crackdown on e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products — and a $338,689 campaign about the dangers of menthol cigarettes featuring billboards and advertising on radio and TV — are all aimed at accomplishing the same thing.

Students in middle school and high school doubled their use of e-cigarettes between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. Three out of four e-cigarette users also smoke regular cigarettes. The largest chunk of menthol cigarette smokers are between the ages of 12 and 17, according to City Hall.

While the e-cigarette ban faced critics, his ordinance prohibiting sales of menthol and flavored tobacco products within five hundred feet of schools is expected to pass council tomorrow.

A vote on the measures regarding e-cigarettes has been delayed until January.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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