Flavored tobacco product retail sales ban takes effect Monday in Evanston

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Monday, April 1, 2024
Flavored tobacco product sales ban set to begin in Evanston
A ban on the retail sale of flavored tobacco products begins Monday in Evanston, Illinois. It is the first ordinance law of its kind in the state.

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Starting Monday, people won't be able to buy flavored tobacco products in Evanston.

Flavored cigarettes, vaping pens and rolling papers will be banned. It's the first ordinance of it's kind in Illinois.

Some store owners are worried the ban will affect their bottom line.

Multiple shelves that used to hold flavored tobacco products at Asif Mehmood's Evanston Gas and Food store now are empty.

The products that used to sit there will no longer be allowed to be sold in the city of Evanston.

"It took me 25 years to establish this business, and with the stroke of a pen they just destroyed it," Mehmood said.

Last year, the city of Evanston passed an ordinance that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, starting April 1, 2024.

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For Mehmood, those products made up 70-80% of his tobacco sales.

"I'm expecting direct and indirect effect of my sales, at least 50%," Mehmood said.

He says losing sales on flavored tobacco products could means losing additional food and gas sales. His store and gas station on Ridge and Howard sits right at the border between Evanston and Chicago.

"And the problem is across the street, the other suburbs, there's no ban," Mehmood said. "So people can just walk out and just go across the street."

Evanston's ban was created and passed last November as part of a strong health initiative to discourage tobacco use, given its extensive health risks.

"Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death for African Americans and a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among Black Americans heart disease cancer, and stroke menthol cigarettes are a major reason why tobacco claims 45,000 Black lives every year," American Lung Association Illinois Advocacy Director Kristina Hamilton said at the November council meeting.

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More advocates for the ban spoke at the November city council meeting, when the ordinance was passed.

"Evanston has continually led the way for our state, first with tobacco 21 reducing or eliminating the sale for those under the age of 21, and now we have a chance again," Lauren Peters with the American Heart Association said at the time. "Let's show Chicago Cook County, and the surrounding communities, that Evanston continues to put the health of our residents first."

Mehmood says he supports Evanston's cause, but he is still concerned about how he will make end's meet.

"You know, it dropped the value of my business, where I am thinking to retire," he said. "I'm 67 years old, and I was thinking to retire and make some money and walk away, and now I don't know what's going to happen."

Retailers that violate the new ordinance will be subject to a fine from $500 to $2,500 and could risk losing their tobacco license if there are multiple offenses.