Apr. 15, 2010

Vote on electronic cigarettes ban postponed in Ill. House committee

Advocates of electronic cigarettes aren’t allowing their chosen alternative to tobacco to become contraband in Illinois quietly.

The Illinois Senate passed legislation that would prevent the sale of the battery-operated e-cigarettes with little attention last month. That changed this morning in a House committee to consider the legislation, SB3174.

The plastic cylinders often look like real cigarettes but dispense a vapor rather than smoke, along with a dose of nicotine.

Former smokers who use the products and retailers who supply them objected to an outright ban, suggesting that lawmakers should look at regulation of e-cigarettes first. Several former smokers said they tried every FDA-approved smoking cessation tool but still couldn’t quit the habit until finding the e-cigarettes.

State Rep. Constance Howard, D-Chicago, said she also was a former smoker and understood how difficult quitting could be.

“I just wish there was something like these around before my mother died,” she said, to applause from the assembled e-cigarette proponents.

Sponsoring state Rep. Marlow Colvin, D-Chicago, said the FDA hasn’t approved the products yet and have found examples of carcinogens and other chemicals in the cartridges. He and lobbyist Kathy Drea with the American Lung Association said the state should prevent people from buying the e-cigarettes until the FDA has ruled on their safety.

But at the request of committee members asking for more information on that process, Colvin postponed a decision on the bill until next week.