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New Illinois law prohibits e-cigarette use in public places

Using electronic cigarettes in public places is prohibited in Illinois under a recently signed law.

The measure amends the Smoke-Free Illinois Act of 2008 that banned smoking in most public places. E-cigarettes are now added to the list of prohibited products.

“Illinoisans deserve to enjoy public spaces without being exposed unwillingly to secondhand vapor and other electronic cigarette by products,” said Gov. JB Pritzker, who signed the bill into law on July 28. “Now, e-cigarettes and vapes will qualify under existing anti-smoking laws, reducing air pollution and making a more accessible, healthy Illinois.”

Individuals and businesses found to be in violation of the law will be subject to fines.

Kristina Hamilton, the Illinois advocacy director for the American Lung Association, said nearly 30 cities across Illinois had updated their ordinances to add e-cigarettes. This law codifies those ordinances and expands themes statewide.

Hamilton said the legislation is intended to protect workers and patrons from inhaling second-hand vapor, which can have negative health effects.

“So far, we have seen acute lung injury, sometimes more serious lung injury, asthma exacerbations, especially amongst youths,” she said. “We've seen increased heart rates as well from using e-cigarettes. So really the harmful toxins and chemicals like nicotine and volatile organic compounds like benzene, which is found in car exhaust, those types of ingredients really are harmful to health.”

Hamilton said nearly 20% of Illinois high schoolers use e-cigarettes, calling the rate “alarming.”

She said there’s still a lot of work to be done to stop teen vaping, adding recent lawsuits against companies such as Juul are a good place to start.

Juul settled claims in April with six states and the District of Columbia for misleading customers on the dangers of vaping and using marketing tactics to target minors.

Illinois received just over $67 million as part of the lawsuit. The company also agreed to marketing restrictions to stop ads targeting minors and limiting how many products can be sold to individuals.

Hamilton said the American Lung Association has been in contact with Pritzker, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sameer Vohra about how to best use the funds. She said statewide education initiatives and funding services for people wanting to quit are a top priority.

Hamilton said the association also is working at the federal level to get more flavored tobacco products removed from the shelves.

“We are really urging the administration to finalize those rules and finally remove flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes from the market,” she said. “We're also urging the FDA to finish their review process of the thousands of e-cigarette company applications to have their products reviewed and see if there they pose a series of health risks to be removed from the market.”

Hamilton said people who want to quit vaping can get free help at 1-866-Quit-Yes or QuitYes.org.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.