Six months after implementing a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes, the city of Chicago has cited several businesses for breaking the rules and announced a lawsuit against a local business accused of selling non-compliant vaping products.
The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) has conducted more than 80 investigations into compliance with the flavour ban, and cited 17 businesses for violations.
A BACP spokesperson told ECigIntelligence that officers regularly patrol vaping businesses in the city – the third largest in the US – to check that all tobacco ordinances, including the minimum purchasing age of 21, are being implemented. “It is already something we had the staff for,” they said.
The department employs 40 investigators, six of whom work for the tobacco team, visiting an average of ten to 15 vaping and tobacco businesses a week. Officials are always on the hunt for violations, even if their case is focused on another ordinance.
The flavour ban approved by Chicago City Council in September 2020 allows for fines of between $1,000 and $5,000, dependent on factors such as willingness to settle and “the egregiousness” of the violation. Business owners can challenge the fines in court.
One of the most aggressive enforcement actions taken by the city council so far is a lawsuit against local companies Equte LLC and Vapes.com for selling tobacco products to minors without using adequate age-verification tools and engaging in unfair competition and business practices.
According to the suit filed in the Northern District of Illinois: “Defendants’ website and social media pages show pictures of e-liquids that are brightly coloured and portray the candies or desserts that the e-liquids are supposed to taste like.”
With this legal action, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot believes the city’s message to vaping companies is clear. “If you break the law, we will go after you, especially if you try to sell to our youth,” she said.
What This Means: Chicago seems to have placed a high priority on compliance with the flavour ban adopted last September.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association (AVA), warned that flavour bans generally lead to store closures and those that stayed open “often end up expanding into tobacco and smoke shop merchandise”.
“You take stores that were once available to be dedicated to getting smokers off of cigarettes, and now in order to survive they end up having to sell bongs and cigars,” he said. “The vast majority of adult vapers want flavours and without them, people seek out alternative means.”
– Meghann Cuniff ECigIntelligence contributing writer
Photo: Sawyer Bengston