CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen on Friday backed an ordinance to ban the sale of flavored vaping products in Chicago, after an earlier effort to prohibit all flavored tobacco of any kind stalled in the face of opposition from retailers who feared losing customers to the suburbs and northwest Indiana.
The City Council Health Committee voted to approve a measure that would ban all flavored vaping products, except those that taste or smell like tobacco.
Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th), the chief sponsor, originally wanted to ban any kind of flavored tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, but couldn’t get enough support from fellow aldermen, many of whom sided with retail groups who argued smokers would simply go outside city limits to buy those products, and increase the black market for so-called “loosies” – unregulated cigarettes.
Health Committee Chair Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said the goal of banning flavored vaping products is to reduce teen vaping. Although the legal age for buying tobacco products in Illinois is 21, e-cigarettes remain popular among teens, because vaping is easier to conceal than smoking a traditional cigarette.
“We really tried to concentrate on restricting access for minors to these products,” Sawyer said.
O’Shea noted recent studies have found one in four high schoolers say they’ve used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, and the CDC has found most e-cigarette users started with flavored products.
The alderman also said a Stanford University study found vaping has been linked to a substantially increased risk of COVID-19 among teens and young adults. According to the study, those who vape are 5-7 times more likely to be infected with COVID than those who don’t use e-cigarettes.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who said he has smoked since he was 16, lamented the compromise ordinance advanced by the Health Committee on Friday.
“It is not a compromise, what we have before us. What you have before you is capitulation,” he said.
Lopez argued the city should also ban menthol flavored cigarettes, which he said have long been targeted at communities of color.
“Menthol is what got me hooked on cigarettes. Menthol is what has been the longest relationship I’ve had in my entire life with this product. Menthol has to go,” he said.
“In total, we have to take on this fight, because if we just do piecemeal, we’re going to get piecemeal progress,” he added. “What’s going to happen is there will be a whole new generation who will have shifted from e-cigarettes up to this point who are going to shift back to traditional burning cigarettes for an entire generation. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
However, Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) said even the watered-down restrictions on flavored tobacco products would hurt small businesses in the city’s border wards, and cost the city badly needed tax revenue at a time Chicago is already facing a projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall for next year.
“I completely get the concept behind this ordinance, but to me ultimately people going to exit our ward, being a border ward, and enter other municipalities … and purchase these products,” he said.
Napolitano also argued, if people do go to the suburbs or Indiana to buy flavored tobacco products, they’ll probably also go there to shop for other needs like groceries and gasoline.
“In this day and age, most people are searching for that one stop shop location where they get all their shopping needs done at one time, and my fear is we will be losing the purchase of all products when people go to our border … cities to purchase all their products, hence us losing an astronomical amount of business,” he said.
Napolitano said the city should focus on stricter enforcement of the state law prohibiting the sale of tobacco and vaping products to anyone under age 21, rather than pushing more businesses out of Chicago.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), whose North Side ward is also very close to the northern suburbs – although doesn’t directly border them – said it’s unlikely the young people the city is trying to protect would go out of their way to go to the suburbs to buy flavored tobacco products.
“I don’t know that a lot of 14-year-olds are going to be taking 15 buses to go to the suburbs and try to stand out in front of a store to get vapes,” he said.
The proposed ban on flavored vaping products now goes to the full City Council for consideration on Wednesday.
This content was originally published here.