Beginning January 1, 2014, the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors will become illegal in Illinois.  The current law, titled the Prevention of Tobacco Use by Minors and Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products Act, has been amended to broaden the definitions to include electronic cigarettes, which previously evaded the statute because they do not contain tobacco.  The amendment adds “alternative nicotine products” to the Act.

Electronic cigarettes consist of three main components: casing, battery, and atomizer/cartomizer. The casing can be in any shape, but popularly resembles a traditional cylinder-shaped cigarette. The battery is typically lithium.  And the atomizer consists of an electrical coil, a liquid of some sort (typically propylene glycol along with nicotine), and a wick (or delivery system). In lay terms, the liquid soaks the wick, the coil heats up and causes the liquid to transform into vapor, and the vapor (and nicotine) is inhaled into the lungs.

The definition specifically excludes products approved by the FDA that are used for tobacco cessation purposes, such as nicotine patches or gum.  Also, the amendment only addresses products that contain nicotine, so an electronic cigarette without nicotine would not be regulated by the Act.

Municipalities may wish to review their underage tobacco ordinances to see if their definitions include electronic cigarettes.  If a municipality’s municipal code does not include electronic cigarettes, police officers would have to issue citations to violators under the state statute exclusively, and the municipality could not pursue violators through administrative adjudication.

William C. Westfall

Author: William C. Westfall