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On Oct. 13, City Council tweaked a proposed ordinance that would have made it illegal to buy, sell, use or possess tobacco before reaching the age of 21. As amended, the proposed ordinance would still make it illegal to buy or sell tobacco before reaching the age of 21, but possession and use would not be illegal.
Council members did not discuss the concept of gradually increasing the age over the next several years. They did, however, discuss the possibility of someday banning tobacco in Evanston entirely.
The Human Services Committee had recommended a total ban on tobacco possession or use by anyone under the age of 21. At Council, however, the ramifications of an immediate ban resulted in a less draconian approach.
“We’ve told these young people they can use at this age,” said Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, and now the City will be levying stiff fines for the use of a “strongly addictive drug” after the addiction has already developed. He suggested the Council “give a little more thought” to a complete ban “if there’s going to be punishment.”
“Personally, I would just like a complete ban” on all tobacco products in Evanston, said Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, “but it’s not up to me.” He agreed with Ald. Tendam, though, that possession and use were activities that should be removed from the proposed ordinance.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, took Ald. Wilson up on his challenge, and proposed that “maybe we should just be bold and ban it all.” She cited the example of CVS Pharmacy and its decision to stop selling tobacco products in CVS stores nationwide.
Council was not ready to go that far, though. “Let’s save that for another day,” said Ald. Wilson.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, fought back against an amendment removing the restriction on possession and use, saying that addicted teens “can just use in their own homes” even if there’s a complete ban.
“It [would be] against the law to do that” under the ordinance as originally proposed, said Ald. Wilson.
The amendment passed 7-2, with Alds. Holmes and Grover voting no. The proposed ordinance, as amended, will return for a final vote at the Oct. 27 City Council meeting. It remains to be seen if any other tweaks are in the offing.