Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 1:28 PM
City Council unanimously passed two bills Thursday to add electronic cigarettes to the Philadelphia’s public indoor smoking ban and to forbid the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
If Mayor Nutter signs the bills, Philadelphia would join a growing number of cities and states that have taken action to regulate e-cigarettes, even while studies and debate over the products continue.
The sponsor of the bills, Councilman William K. Greenlee, said enough respected health officials have raised concerns that he thought action was warranted.
“It’s a non regulated product,” he said. “We do not know what goes in these products.”
E-cigarette advocates and their users – known as “vapers” – argue that no study has shown a harmful levels of chemicals in e-cigarettes, which they say actually help people kick tobacco smoking addictions.
Gregory Conley, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, used his e-cigarette while testifying in Council Thursday. No vapor could be seen.
“Now, did I just use my electronic cigarette?” he asked. “You have no hope of enforcing this bill, so you’re just passing something for the sake of passing it.”
While regular cigarettes burn tobacco, the new battery-powered devices use electricity to vaporize a liquid that contains nicotine.
Most scientists agree that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco, but they disagree on whether they can help smokers quit, and whether enough study has been conducted to declare them safe.
There’s also debate on whether e-cigarettes will lead nonsmokers, particularly children, toward tobacco addiction.
“I know they say, 'Because we don’t know enough, don’t do anything,'” Greenlee said. “I’m saying, 'Because we don’t know enough … we should take necessary precautions.'”
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