Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, D-McCook, said he was proud of a vote today that unanimously passed an ordinance amendment that prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes, or E-cigarettes, from being sold to minors in suburban Cook County.
"These E-cigarettes come in all sorts of flavors – bubblegum, cherry ... and they're being placed near the candy," Tobolski said after the vote.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat nicotine, additives and water into vapor, which are then inhaled by the user, similar to cigarettes. The smokeless devices are marketed as smoking secession products, for the user's ability to smoke indoors and as a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes. Users can be seen puffing on E-cigarettes that produce vapor when exhaled and often include glowing blue or orange ends to mimic cigarettes.
Tobolski said he became aware of a "loophole" that allowed the products to be sold to customers under the age of 18 by a friend in the Cook County Department of Public Health. The amendment will pull E-cigarettes behind the counter with tobacco products and will require retailers to verify the age of a customer before allowing them to purchase the product.
The amendment will only apply to unincorporated areas of Cook County, affecting over 40 retailers, said Keving Fanning, a spokesman for Tobolski.
Tobolski, who has a middle school-aged daughter, said he proposed the admendent out of concern that kids would begin smoking earlier, due to perceptions that E-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes. A Los Angeles Times article published in January that examined the health effects of E-cigarettes largely found that the products were still too new to the market to reveal definitive results. However, most studies have found that impact of E-cigarette vapor on a person's health is minimal, especially when compared to cigarettes.
Tobolski said he still doesn't see much of a difference and said the amendment could be used as a starting place for further regulation of E-cigarettes, such as a ban on using them indoors, as the Chicago City Council recently passed.
"It's all a low-level nicotine delivery system," Tobolski said. "[The amendment] let's us establish this as a place we can work from."
Tobolski added that, regardless of the health effects and marketing, his main concern was that use of the products could lead kids to smoking regular cigarettes.
"Regardless of their marketing, this is a way to continue the addiction," Tobolski said.