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Second City Knuckles Under

It's going to get harder to quit smoking in Chicago, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel has thrown his weight behind an ordinance blocking people's attempts to quit.

Chicago smokers who are trying to quit by using electronic cigarettes will now be barred from doing so in public places, despite growing evidence that the vapor e-cigarettes emit is harmless.

Harmless vaporizers will be classed with toxic cigarettes under the city's Clean Indoor Air Act, according to the provisions of a measure passed in a preliminary hearing on Monday, January 13, and forwarded to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday the 15th. The Monday vote was 15-5, and the measure is expected to pass on Wednesday. According to the Chicago Tribune, the hearing took place under the watchful eye of "administration officials" and the mayor's lobbyists took several aldermen aside for "private chats" before the vote. It seems fairly clear that some political strong-arm tactics were in use.

In December the Council voted the measure down, when several aldermen voiced "surprise opposition". Limited opposition was voiced on the occasion of Monday's meeting as well. “You’re lumping it together in the same category even though you don’t really have any proof that it has any harm," said Alderman Rey Colon of the 35th precinct. "You’re saying ‘We’re going to regulate first and ask questions later.’ ” The 42nd's Alderman Brendan Reilly, a smoker, voiced sympathy with friends and relatives who are using e-cigs "to get away from combustible tobacco that kills people.” These opposition voices were ignored and the resistance to the measure was quashed this time around.

Another provision of the ordinance will require that e-cigarettes be sold only under the counter. Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair says this feature will keep underage consumers from acquiring e-cigarettes. The Trib reports that Dr. Choucair's assumption is that using e-cigs will lead to use of toxic cigarettes. This despite new evidence that e-cigs are doing exactly the opposite. The rise in e-cigarette use by youth, much feared by the Center for Disease Control, coincides exactly in time with a marked decline in smoking of toxic cigarettes by youth, according to a recent study at the University of Michigan. Advocates of public bans on vaping have either ignored the Michigan study or they have claimed that it shows exactly the opposite of what it actually shows.

Chicago suffered more than any other American city from the self-destructive puritanism of the Prohibition Era (1920-1933). The growth of Chicago's organized crime gangs, stimulated by Prohibition, made the city into a synonym for corrupt government, corrupt police, and underworld control of the political machine. It is sad to see the city knuckling under to another wave of misdirected sanctimony.

There is a lot of talk these days about the need for long term studies of the effect of vaping, both on health and on the ability of smokers to kick the habit. Perhaps another long-term study is in order. Death rates from smoking related causes could be studied in cities, states, provinces, and countries that outlaw public vaping and correlated with death rates in localities that allow it. Then we would begin to get some idea of just how many people the sanctimonious nannies are sentencing to death.