New Chicago businesses that get 20% of their income from the sale of vapes will now be required to obtain a special city license.
The ordinance from 41st Ward Ald. Anthony Napolitano also restricts how closely such shops can operate from each other.
Napolitano original proposal would have given City Council the authority to place moratoriums in specified areas on future tobacco retail licenses, which are required in Chicago to sell cigarettes, vapes and other smoke products.
“It’s keeping it out of the hands of our kids, because right now there’s a major explosion with vaping,” Napolitano told the Tribune ahead of the vote. “I have two teenage kids alone that see vaping probably in every other one of their friends hands. So now this is hopefully gonna get a little bit more of a little anchor on it so that it isn’t every location.”
The newest legislation, which exempts existing vape shops, comes as the city has moved to crack down on electronic cigarettes, which have lately been a target of a broad coalition of aldermen and Mayor Lori Lightfoot alike. Supporters of restricting vapes say the products have spurred a public health crisis among teenagers as they cycle through the pen-shaped devices at dizzying paces.
But those working in vape shops have countered that their products have helped many adults quit traditional cigarettes, and existing constraints have failed to keep the electronic ones out of children’s hands. They worried the legislation would further hurt small businesses without making a dent in preventing youth addiction.
The lack of a moratorium clause in the final version of the ordinance was welcomed by an industry group.
“The devil is always in the details, but a model that permits new stores to open appears more consumer-friendly than the possibility of moratoriums,” said Gregory Conley, director of legislative and external affairs for the American Vapor Manufacturers Association. “Nonetheless, we remain concerned that past anti-harm-reduction bans and excise taxes passed by the council will continue to push sales in Chicago to the uncontrollable illicit market.”