Chicago's City Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in areas where tobacco products are currently banned.
The 45-4 vote by the aldermen bars the use of e-cigarettes in offices, indoor public areas and within a certain distance of building entrances. It also moves the e-cigarettes to behind retail counters and prohibits sales to minors.
Alderman Brendan Reilly, a former smoker who is using e-cigarettes to kick the habit, said he is opposed to the ordinance. He noted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to offer direction on how e-cigarettes should be regulated.
"I wouldn't wish a nicotine addiction on my worst enemy," he said. "But I can tell you tobacco addiction kills people, and I'm looking for any possible product to get away from tobacco."
Reilly said he opposed the ordinance because he thought it was wrong to treat a product being used as an alternative to quit smoking like the product the consumer is trying to get away from.
"This (ordinance) would place vapor users on the curb right next to the folks smoking," he said. "That, to me, does not make a lot of sense."
Electronic cigarettes are metal or plastic battery-powered devices resembling traditional cigarettes that heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating a vapor that users inhale. Their popularity among young people has raised the concern of public health officials.
Respiratory Health Association President Joel Africk said his organization considers e-cigarettes a tobacco product. He said Chicago's action will help restrict youths' access to the products, eliminate the risk of exposure to the chemicals emitted from e-cigarettes and keep indoor air clean.
"The bottom line is that e-cigarettes and their vapors have not been deemed safe," Africk said. "The decision to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products was necessary to protect the health of Chicago's youth and the general public."
Africk's organization contends e-cigarettes -- many of which contain nicotine -- threaten to addict another generation to the substance and may influence youths to try tobacco products.
Retailers have six months to move e-cigarettes behind a counter. Restrictions on where they can be used take affect April 29.