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Tobacco sales ban plan strengthened

The City Council’s Human Services Committee Monday voted to strengthen a proposed ordinance limiting cigarette sales near schoools.

The draft ordinance would increase from 100 to 150 feet the required separation of a store selling cigarettes from any school. The committee on Monday voted to make the ordinance apply to elementary as well as junior high schools and Evanston Township High School. The draft ordinace would have exempted elementary schools from the ban.

But the aldermen agreed to exempt the Park School and Rice Children’s Center, on the basis that children at those special education programs are always supervised on the way to and from school.

The exemption would permit a convenience store across from Park School to continue to sell cigarettes.

Alderman Steven Bernstein, 4th Ward, said it’s important to preserve easy access to cigarettes for residents of the nearby Albany Care nursing home in the former Ridgeview Hotel at 901 Maple Ave.

Although cigarettes are a health hazard, Ald. Bernstein said, the Albany Care residents “need to smoke because they don’t have much else. If these folks can’t smoke their cigarettes they’re going to be hurt.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, had initially propose increasing the restricted zone to 500 feet, but various aldermen objected to that provision because it would have affected sales at major grocery and drug store chains which generate substantial revenue for the city and are perceived to have effective policies against cigarette sales to minors.

Leonard Lamkin, a 9th Ward resident who said he was involved in developing the original Evanston ordinace to ban cigarette sales near schools a decade ago, told aldermen many stores are violating another provision of the ordinance that bars window signs advertising cigarette sales.

And he said sales of “loosies” — individual cigarettes — are a violation of federal law, and that federal prosecutors recently secured the conviction of a convenience store owner in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for such sales.

The aldermen also voted to increase the penalty for a second violation of the ordinance from $500 to $1,000. Violaters also could have their tobacco sales licenses revoked or suspended. And aldermen voted to make store owners liable for the actions of their clerks.

The ordinance amendments don’t address Alderman Ann Rainey’s concerns about the drug store at Oakton Street and Asbury Avenue, which is scheduled to close soon.

It’s within 150 feet of Chute Middle School. Although she’s hoping to attract Trader Joe’s, which reportedly does not sell cigarettes, to the property, she’s said she’s opposed to any new restrictions on the type of business that could locate there.

The ordinance amendments still require action by the full City Council to go into effect.

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