Schaumburg officials this week classified electronic cigarettes the same as tobacco products for law enforcement purposes, and created a new businesses license for stores that want to let customers sample different flavors on-site for customized devices.
The steps are similar to those taken recently in Arlington Heights, and Hoffman Estates is in the process of doing the same, Schaumburg Public Health Officer Mary Passaglia said.
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Though the Food and Drug Administration has yet to declare an official position on electronic cigarettes, the village is acting now in the interest of both public health and law enforcement, Passaglia said.
"As a public health officer, I'm looking at the health aspect," she said. "Right now we'd rather err on the side of safety."
That means treating the devices the same as traditional cigarettes in terms of indoor smoking regulations and possession of smoking materials by minors.
Changing the village code to emphasize that electronic cigarettes are the same as a tobacco product also gives clearer direction to police officers on how to respond to violations of smoking laws.
Although prepackaged electronic cigarettes are being sold in many of the same places as traditional cigarettes, there also are three businesses in Schaumburg that offer customized products they want patrons to be able to sample.
A newly created license for these types of businesses will cost $273 per year. The traditional license for retail tobacco sales costs $113 per year.
With the ability to allow smoking on-site, the new category of store will have certain responsibilities and restrictions, Passaglia said.
The stores are not to become lounges or recreational areas like hookah bars. The purpose is to sample and sell smoking products, not to be a hangout, she said.
Business owners themselves have proved to be the most concerned about how to handle these products, Passaglia added, and none have argued against restrictions.