By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Ignoring the pleas of e-cigarette users, City Council today unanimously approved a measure that bans the devices from public spaces in Philadelphia.
The vote was 15-0 in favor of a measure that adds electronic nicotine inhalers (“e-cigarettes”) to Philadelphia’s existing ban on public smoking.
The sponsor, Councilman Bill Greenlee (below), describes the measure as a regulation, not a ban.
“This is a totally unregulated product. And (because of) the fact that we don’t know what’s in it, I think we ought to err on the side of caution,” Greenlee said. “We’re not banning the product. What we’re basically doing is saying, in public places you need to step outside.”
Before the vote, several e-cigarette supporters spoke in opposition to the measure.
Gregory Conley, an ex-smoker who now uses e-cigs (top photo), dismissed health criticisms of the device:
“Hundreds of studies have been conducted on e-cigarette vapor. And not a single study has ever found any harmful level of any chemical produced in the vapor.”
Conley even produced an e-cigarette, appeared to puff on it, and said it is difficult for anyone to tell if he’s actually using it:
“You have no hope of enforcing this bill. So you are just passing something for the sake of passing it.”
Opponents of the measure also say the ban could drive ex-smokers back to smoking. Greenlee rejected that charge, as well as claims that the ban is another example of government intervention in people’s private lives.
“We estimate that out of 1.5 million people in Philadelphia, 1.4 do not use electronic cigarettes. I think we have to look at what’s best for them. I think one of government’s roles is to protect people, and to protect the health of people,” Greenlee said.
Council also unanimously approved a related bill that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
Both measures now go to Mayor Nutter, and Greenlee fully expects him to sign them in to law.
“The mayor has been a supporter of this. The administration has been behind this bill, also. I expect the mayor to sign it, yes,” Greenlee said.