CHICAGO — The Chicago City Council on Wednesday voted to ban the sale of flavored vaping products. Sales of other flavored tobacco products, however, like menthol cigarettes, will still be allowed.
The original ordinance, proposed by Ald. Matt O’Shea, would have banned the sale of all flavored tobacco products in the city—which opponents said would destroy a category that makes upwards of 30% of convenience stores’ in-store sales.
The city’s committee on health and human relations held a subject matter hearing on July 6 on the proposed restrictions where many c-store owners and representatives of associations that support c-stores and tobacco retailers spoke out against the ban.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which was available to watch via live stream, the council adopted the modified ordinance by a 46-4 vote.
Aldermen who spoke in opposition to the bill cited concerns including the city facing a budget deficit, customers going to neighboring suburbs to buy flavored vape and the ordinance being overkill as the city already has anti-smoking initiatives in place.
“The unintended consequence is sending this business literally across the street, in some cases, to the suburbs, and we lose the revenue,” Ald. Brendan Reilly, who opposed the ordinance, said.
O’Shea, who supported the ordinance despite its narrowing, said it represents a compromise and by passing the bill the council could take a major step to combat a “very serious public health crisis” that hooks youth onto e-cigarettes by using flavors like cotton candy, gummy bear and strawberry shortcake.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also voiced her support for the ordinance saying that the tobacco industry is “targeting our children” and the coronavirus attacks people who have upper respiratory issues, heart disease and diabetes, like illnesses attributable to smoking.
“This is a serious health care issue,” she said. “Some have said, ‘Why are we dealing with this no in the middle of a pandemic when we’ve got so many other issues?’ We’re dealing with this now because it’s necessary.”
However, the timing of this could come at a high cost for Chicago retailers.
Illinois c-stores are already losing up to 65% of fuel revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Josh Sharp, CEO of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association/Illinois Association of Convenience Stores, previously said when the ordinance was discussed in committee.
“It just makes it all that more destructive to our member’s bottom line,” Sharp previously told CSP of the timing of the proposed ordinance.
California recently signed into law a bill banning the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state. Massachusetts’ ban on flavored tobacco sales went into effect on June 1, and within the first week of the ban, c-store retailers noticed a drop in tobacco sales, retailers said.