Using an electronic cigarette is no better than smoking a regular cigarette and should be banned in public places. That's the position every member of Philadelphia City Council took during a vote on legislation that effectively bans the use of the smokeless product.
At a Philadelphia City Council meeting on Thursday afternoon, council members voted 15-0 to categorize e-cigarettes the same way that regular tobacco cigarettes are treated -- meaning the vapor producing products would be banned in most public places and those under 18 would be prohibited from buying them.
The ban still requires Mayor Michael Nutter's signature to become law. A spokesperson for the mayor could not say whether he was planning to sign the bill and said he would, like always, review the legislation and make a decision when he returns from the Papal visit in Rome.
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City Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced the legislation that bans e-cigarettes in public under the "Public Places-Prohibited Conduct" section of city code and restricts the sale of the devices to minors.
New York, Chicago -- and the entire state of New Jersey -- are among the municipalities that have already banned electronic-cigarette vapor from public spaces.
Greenlee says the sale of electronic cigarettes to children needed to be banned citing potential safety concerns.
Those caught selling the e-cigarettes to minors could be fined $250 or have their business shut down for some time if several violations are uncovered, according to a copy of the bill obtained by NBC10.com. The bill also requires those under the age of 27 to be carded.
The battery operated devices heat flavored liquids and produce a vapor which is inhaled by the user. The process is called "vaping." The liquids could contain nicotine or simply flavoring.
Not everyone is happy with the ban. Vaping advocates say there isn't enough research on e-cigarettes and that this new measure would be nearly impossible to enforce.
Minors have been increasingly been using the devices. A recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found e-cigarette use has doubled among middle school students. Use by high schoolers has also jumped.
A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Pediatrics found that vaping is a gateway for teens to use regular cigarettes.
Opponents of the devices say their use by children and teens mimics cigarette use and could instill bad habits. Medical professionals have also highlighted concerns about a lack of regulation and testing to understand what is actually in e-cigarette liquids, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
"Based on the limited data that we have seen, I think it is imperative that we keep these devices out of the hands of minors now. We need to protect people, especially minors from the deadly smoking habit.” Greenlee said in a statement.
Once signed, Philadelphia will become the first city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to regulate the sale of the devices. A state senate bill, currently making its way through the legislature, would also ban the sale of e-cigarettes and other nicotine products like nicotine gum to minors.