CHICAGO (CBS) — Aldermen have overwhelmingly approved an ordinance prohibiting the sale of flavored vaping products in Chicago, despite fears from some aldermen that the ban will simply send people who use them to the suburbs or northwest Indiana to get their fix.
The measure, approved by a 46-4 vote on Wednesday, would ban all flavored vaping products, except those that taste or smell like tobacco. The ban does not apply to flavored cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco, including menthol cigarettes.
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.
O’Shea called the compromise approved on Wednesday “a major step forward” in protecting Chicago’s youth from the health risks of vaping products, which have become increasingly popular with teens and young adults.
“In 2019, more than 10% of middle school students reported using a vaping product in the last 30 days, compared to less than 1% just 10 years ago,” he said.
The alderman said the CDC has found most youth e-cigarette users started with flavored vaping products.
“We all know that vaping is unsafe for children, and we all know that vaping products are marketed to children, with flavors like apple berry bubblegum, cotton candy, gummi bear, froot loops, nilla vapes, strawberry shortcake,” he said.
Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said vaping products are specifically targeted and marketed for young people.
“Don’t take my word for it. Ask any teacher, ask any principal, ask any pediatrician,” he said. “It is a gateway, and these companies are making millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars on the health of our young people.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who supports the ban, said reducing tobacco use is a personal issue for her, because her late father was a two-pack-a-day smoker.
“I watched him die a slow, painful, miserable death. Why? Because of smoking,” she said.
Lightfoot agreed with aldermen who said more needs to be done to curb smoking among teens and young adults, noting that some of her fifth-grade daughter’s classmates use vaping products in the school bathrooms.
“Make no mistake about it, the tobacco industry is targeting our children. They are targeting our children to addict a whole new generation of folks on tobacco, there’s no doubt about it,” she said.
However, a handful of aldermen argued the ordinance will simply hurt the city’s finances, causing Chicago to lose badly needed tax revenue to neighboring suburbs and northwest Indiana.
“I have a real problem with this ordinance,” said Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th). “We’re just killing businesses in this city. We’re making things tougher and tougher for people.”
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who also voted against the ordinance, and echoed Sposato’s fears of losing revenue to the suburbs, said he would have been more comfortable with a statewide ban on flavored vaping products.
Reilly also noted Illinois already bans the sale of any tobacco products to anyone under age 21.
“I would rather, to get at the heart of the problem, see stepped-up enforcement efforts and public education efforts so that those types of products aren’t attractive to kids,” Reilly said.
In addition to Reilly and Sposato, the aldermen who voted against the ban were George Cardenas (12th), who called the measure “overkill,” and Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), who has said people who will now go to the suburbs or northwest Indiana to buy the products will likely also go there to shop for groceries and gasoline, costing the city even more tax revenue.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who said he has smoked since he was 16, voted in favor of the ban, but lamented that aldermen did not go further by banning flavored tobacco products altogether, including flavored cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco.
“As much as I find fault with this ordinance for all of the compromises, it still represents a step forward. It might not be a perfect step, it might not be our best step, but it is a step forward,” he said.
However, Lopez said he fears e-cigarette users will simply switch to more dangerous cigarettes and cigars if they can’t get the flavored vaping products they want in Chicago. The alderman said the City Council must continue to address tobacco use in Chicago.
“This cannot be a one-and-done situation where we don’t revisit this for another year,” he said. “This issue is not dead to me, and I hope it’s not dead to any of you in today’s meeting; that we will continue to fight, that we will continue to make this the strongest ordinance, and that we should put pressure on the state and the county to do the same.”
In other business on Wednesday, the City Council also approved:
- An ordinance to tighten regulations on the city’s home-sharing industry, by banning one-night rentals through sites like Airbnb and HomeAway and capping bookings at two people per sleeping room, in an effort to curb house parties that have become a nuisance in many neighborhoods. The measure also would require people applying to host short-term rentals to submit their applications directly to the city, rather than through intermediaries like Airbnb and HomeAway; and would give the city more leeway in revoking the permits of scofflaws. In addition, the changes include closing a loophole that allowed hosts to list their units while their applications are still pending. Now hosts would not be allowed to list a unit for short-term rental until their application receives final approval from the city.
- A $3.8 million settlement with former Chicago Police Officer Laura Kubiak, who accused her superiors of retaliation after she accused a fellow officer of assaulting her in the workplace in 2012. Kubiak said she was removed from her post as a spokeswoman for the CPD Office of News Affairs and reassigned to a dangerous neighborhood on the midnight shift. Her attorney has said the case could have been settled at no cost to the city if she had been reinstated at News Affairs, but the city refused.
- A $2.25 million settlement with the family of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal, an unarmed Black man who was shot in the back while running away from police in 2016. Officers Michael Coughlin and Jose Torres were fired by the Chicago Police Board in March. The officers were fired for firing on a moving vehicle, in violation of CPD policy. While they were not the officers who shot O’Neal, the officer who did fire the fatal shot, Officer Jose Diaz, had said he believed O’Neal was armed and had fired at police. In fact, those shots came from Coughlin and Torres.
- A $350,000 settlement for a South Side family who are among the dozens of victims of Chicago police officers raiding the wrong homes. Stephanie Bures, her two children, and three other family members sued the city last year, accusing police of terrorizing them at gunpoint when officers raided their apartment during her 4-year-old son’s birthday party. Bures called what happened “horrible” and “unnecessary,” because the suspect who police officers were looking for hadn’t lived in the building for five years.
- A $250,000 settlement with the family of 27-year-old Martice Milliner, who was shot and killed by police in 2015. Police have maintained the officer who shot Milliner opened fire after Milliner pointed a gun at him, but Milliner’s family insisted he was at a birthday party and police shot him without cause or provocation, and filed false reports to justify the shooting.
- A four-year contract with the city’s firefighters, retroactive to June 2017. The new contract will pay firefighters a 10% raise over the four-year term of the agreement, which will expire at the end of June 2021.