SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- This session, Illinois lawmakers will consider banning electronic cigarettes in the same places traditional cigarettes are already banned in the state.
A bill, introduced this week by Illinois Representative Kathleen Willis (D-District 77), would amend the School Code and the Smoke Free Illinois Act. This bill would prohibit electronic cigarettes on school property, bars and restaurants, and businesses. The bill would permit theater actors to use electronic cigarettes within performance spaces.
Representative Willis said she introduced the bill for two primary reasons. First, she hopes a statewide ban on electronic cigarettes will give Illinois a more uniform stance on the practice. Already, some individual municipalities have placed their own ban on e-cigarettes. Second, she said, without FDA approval and long-term data, medical professionals don't know what the effects will be of inhaling the vapor second-hand.
Doctors echo those concerns.
"We don't know exactly what's in the vapor," said Dr. Meena Murugappan, an Illinois-based pulmonologist. "There is a vapor released when people are using e-cigarettes, but we don't know a lot of about the chemicals that are released - and there is the potential for some harm to bystanders."
Murugappan said studies have shown evidence of carcinogens in e-cigarettes, and she tries to encourage other forms of smoking cessation.
"There's so much we don't know about it, the long term effects," she said. "Just as we found out with smoking cigarettes -- the long term effects are just unclear to us. And down the line we may find out there [are] more and different medical issues that arise."
Despite concerns from the medical community, "vapers" often begin the practice as a way to quit smoking.
"We've helped a lot of people get off cigarettes," said Paul Hatcher, who owns Pauly's E-Cig and Vapor Shop in Belleville. "And that's really the rewarding part of this. Eventually some people come into it more as a hobby. It's a fun business to be in."
Hatcher listed the ingredients in the e-cigarette: propylene glycol, glycerin, and nicotine. Users also add a flavor to the mix.
He also talks about studies, and some information he's read shows vaping has little effect on users or bystanders. However, he understands the controversial nature of the practice and why some people might oppose vaping indoors.
"Some people tend to get a little extreme with the production," he said, referring to the cloud emitted on exhale. "So I could see that probably offends some people."
Should the bill pass, restaurants and bars will likely get caught in the middle. In recent years many have modified their layouts, such as adding patios, to accommodate a ban on traditional cigarettes while keeping smokers as customers.
Scott Schmelzel owns Big Daddy's, which has locations on both sides of the river - including Belleville.
"Vaping is something that we've seen more and more. The smoking ban hurt business three or four years ago, and you'll see vaping as a substitute for smoking," he said.
"Most people know it's not smoke, but it gives the appearance of smoke. It lets off a cloud, and people, when they're inside eating, are just not comfortable with that."
Schmelzel said he doesn't take a formal stand on vaping and allows it inside his restaurants. However, he notes, the less formal, bar-type setting is more relaxed than a sit-down, family-style restaurant.
If the bill should pass, he expects users will once again adjust to a new law.
Quinn signs legislation banning campus smoking
Study: E-cigarettes damage healthy cells
California declares electronic cigarettes a health threat
Nixon vetoes electronic cigarette measure
Teen smoking hits record low