Committee approves adding e-cigs to public ban on smoking

Posted: March 14, 2014

A CITY COUNCIL committee yesterday agreed to treat e-cigarettes the same as the traditional kind, banning their sale to minors and applying the same no smoking limits.

The action came despite e-cig advocates who say the legislation is a total puff piece. Opponents of the bill, sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee, came out in droves to testify against it. Sparks flew when Greenlee began to butt heads with Bill Godshall, executive director of Smoke Free PA.

Godshall insisted that e-cig use is a safe alternative to smoking and that users should consider the vapors emitted no more dangerous than the carcinogens that can be found in the very carpet lining the council chambers floor.

"Hundreds of common workplace and household products and activities emit far greater levels of indoor air pollution than e-cigarettes, including furniture, carpet, paint, printers, dry cleaning clothes, perfume, nail polish and even a cup of coffee," he said.

"But you're not smoking the carpet, are you?" said Greenlee. "All we're saying is that we put regulations on them. We are not banning them."

Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz testified that about 20 percent of smokers and 7 percent of all young people have at least tried e-cigarettes.

"To ban e-cigarette sales to minors and to prohibit e-cigarette use in indoor spaces [is] reasonable and necessary to promote the public's health," said Schwarz.

"E-cigarette use is growing rapidly. Yet, there is no federal regulation of their manufacture or content. There is no oversight of their product labeling or advertising . . . However, we know enough to take action locally, to take action now to assure that e-cigarettes do not cause harm."

The e-cig curb now goes to the full City Council for consideration.

Finally, as expected, Council unanimously approved the sale of the parking garage beneath Love Park.

Mayor Nutter got his wish with approval of the sale of the aging garage to the Chicago-based company InterPark for almost $30 million. InterPark has promised to make upgrades and improvements, such as making the garage handicapped accessible.

Yet it remains to be seen what will happen on the surface. Last month, Clarke and Nutter reached an agreement on how to transform the landscape of Love Park, using $16 million in taxpayer dollars to bring it up to snuff.


On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH

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