Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Local businesses grapple with impact of Evanston’s flavored tobacco ban

Jerry Wu/The Daily Northwestern
Evanston ban on flavored tobacco products includes items from flavored cigarettes, cigars, to vaping items.

Before Evanston’s ban on flavored tobacco sales took effect on April 1, Asif Mehmood, the owner of Evanston Gas & Food store on 101 Ridge Ave., said he was considering retiring soon. Now, he said his “future is uncertain.”

Evanston is the first city in Illinois to prohibit businesses from selling flavored tobacco products, four months after City Council approved the ban with a 6-3 vote. The new ordinance applies to flavored cigarettes, cigars, vaping items, pipe tobacco and rolling papers, but still allows residents to possess these products.

Since the ban went into effect, Mehmood said he lost about $2,000 in daily earnings, largely from flavored tobacco products. He estimates that by the end of the month, his losses will be at least tenfold compared to at the ban’s start.

Mehmood’s storefront lies right along the border between Evanston and the city of Chicago. So, many of his customers need only to cross a few blocks to buy the products he can no longer sell, he added. 

“It took me 25 years to establish the business,” Mehmood said. “I will see at the end of the month if I’m able to pay my bills.”

The ban comes as Evanston looks to protect the public from marketing practices employed by the tobacco industry “that are disproportionately targeting Black people and young consumers,” according to the city’s website.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) first proposed an ordinance in June to ban the sales of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, which expanded to all flavored tobacco products per recommendations from the city’s Human Services Committee. 

At City Council’s Nov. 27 meeting, Reid and Alds. Krissie Harris (2nd) and Thomas Suffredin (6th) voted against the expanded ordinance.

“Is there a reason why if we are supporting this (ordinance), why wouldn’t we just ban all tobacco?” Reid said.

Don Zeigler, the chair of the Evanston Health Advisory Council said the ban is necessary to curb tobacco use among young consumers.

“Flavored tobacco products are particularly a serious problem because the products are flavored to attract new consumers,” Zeigler said. 

But, Zeigler added that he thinks the city needs to “eliminate tobacco entirely as a health problem.” 

In addition to its ban on flavored tobacco products, Evanston has been a leader in tobacco control efforts across Illinois, passing the state’s first ban on public indoor smoking and raising the legal age for residents to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Kash Mohan, manager at the 7-Eleven on 817 Emerson St., said his store has also received a hard hit. He predicted that his sales will be about $300,000 less than the previous year.

Today, tobacco use continues to serve as one of the leading preventable causes of death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. 

Mohan said he supports the city’s move since it’s a “good cause.” But like Mehmood, he questioned the effectiveness of the ordinance. 

Mohan said that his customers have only brought business elsewhere, crossing a few blocks over into neighboring places like Wilmette, to purchase tobacco products.

“Three or four blocks down, they are stores where you can buy anything from there,” Mohan said. “I hope it works, but it looks like when I am talking to my customers, they said ‘no worries, I will just go to a couple blocks and buy it from there.’”

Email: [email protected] 

X: @Jerrwu

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