SPRINGFIELD — A ban on selling electronic cigarettes to minors goes into effect in Illinois on Jan. 1, but that may not be the end of attempts to regulate the product.
Public health advocacy groups say they are considering whether to ask lawmakers to change state law to include e-cigarettes in the Illinois Smoke-Free Act —even though the battery-powered nicotine sticks emit a water vapor and not smoke.
“We’re certainly considering that,” said Kathy Drea, vice president of advocacy at the American Lung Association of Upper Midwest.
The 2008 statewide smoking ban applies to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs and other lit materials. Some municipalities, colleges and the U.S. Department of Transportation have lumped e-cigarettes in with traditional smoking materials in rules and laws governing smoking.
The groups, however, say they are being cautious about moving forward in the legislature.
“We want them (e-cigarettes) included, but we are always fearful of opening up the law because then it is vulnerable to amendments that weaken the law,” said Heather Eagleton, director of public policy for the American Cancer Society.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is on the sidelines, waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to weigh in on e-cigarettes.
“Because there have been no real studies to indicate adverse health effects, to the user or to those around the user, the department is awaiting a decision by the FDA later this year on how e-cigarettes are to be regulated, before deciding on a course of action,” noted Public Health spokeswoman Melaney Arnold.
The possibility of additional regulation comes after lawmakers last spring approved a proposal to bar minors from purchasing e-cigarettes in an attempt to keep them from getting hooked on nicotine.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed the plan into law on Aug. 15.