Chicago Shelves Potential Flavored Tobacco Ban

Convenience stores and gas stations argued against the proposal. 

July 08, 2020

CHICAGO—A proposal to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in Chicago has stalled in a City Council committee, the Chicago Sun Times reports. Alderman Matt O’Shea, a close ally of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, presented the measure, which drew opposition from convenience stores and gas station owners.

During the virtual meeting of the council’s Health and Human Relations, owner-operators of convenience and tobacco stores stated that the proposed ban is a “legislative overreach” that would hinder their business even more.

“This is the equivalent to kicking this industry while they’re down. You not only lose out on flavored tobacco sales to adults, you lose a significant driver of other business. When people buy tobacco, they buy other things. So the business loses out on all of those sales. The city loses out on all of the revenue,” said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“I encourage members of this committee to focus on … keeping kids away from vaping products made in flavors that are likely to attract them,” Dawood said. “You can do that while preserving the tobacco products and vaping products that are attractive to adults and saving the small businesses that sell tobacco products to adults.”

Riley King, who owns several stores, including one that’s 15 minutes from the Illinois/Indiana border, said, “This is just one more nail in our coffin as far as being able to survive, business-wise. … This is just yet another product you’re taking away from our customers. … With the COVID issue and with minimum wage just going up last week, it’s becoming harder and harder to survive.”

After the hearing, O’Shea said that there’s “a lot of work to do” to find support for his proposal, and he indicated he would be open to changing the measure in light of the hearing.