Four months after deciding to expand the scope of a proposed ban on flavored tobacco products, Evanston’s Human Services Committee reversed itself Monday night.
Alds. Eleanor Revelle (7th) and Krissie Harris (2nd), who supported the broader ban, ended up on the losing side of Monday’s vote.
Ald. Devon Reid (8th), who had initially proposed the ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored vapes, persuaded Juan Geracaris (9th) and Bobby Burns (5th) to join him in exempting other flavored tobacco products — like pipe tobacco and the tobacco used in hookah lounges — from the ban.
Reid has separately been pushing to legalize the creation of hookah lounges in the city, so far without success.
Revelle cited data from the American Heart Association indicating that 68% of youths who use tobacco use flavored e-cigarettes, 47% use menthol cigarettes, 48% use smokeless flavored tobacco products and 31% use flavored hookah tobacco to support the broader ban.
Advocates of the ban see it as a way to discourage young people from getting hooked on nicotine and to counter smoking’s disproportionate impact on minority communities.
Several representatives of anti-smoking groups spoke in favor of the ban at the meeting, while a representative of tobacco retailers spoke against it.
Burns said he was only supporting the measure to move it to the full City Council for discussion.
“We talk about a lot of different policies,” he said. “Some it makes sense for us to lead on, others it makes sense for the county of state to lead on.”
“This is one that I’d like to see the county or state lead on,” Burns added.
“I know it makes people feel good” to do this, he said, but he’d rather see the city devote more efforts to helping people overcome addictions — rather than push them out of town to buy their addictive products.
Health Director Ike Ogbo noted that Evanston has a history of being a leader in adopting restrictions on tobacco use — including banning smoking in public places in 2014 and raising the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.