SPRINGFIELD (IRN) — Lawmakers are back in Springfield and one matter the Senate is poised to take up would prohibit people younger than 21 from buying tobacco and e-cigarettes, but other measures targeting vaping products are also on the horizon.
State Sen. Terry Link, D-Indian Creek, wants to put e-cigarettes and vaporizers into the Smoke Free Illinois Act.
“Which would mean you couldn’t do it in a public building,” Link said. “You couldn’t smoke at a restaurant or local bar, or vape I should say, or you’ll have to go outside 15 feet from the building to do the same.”
Despite opposition from industry groups, Illinois banned the use of tobacco products in places with public accommodations, like restaurants and bars, more than a decade ago.
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said if a business owner is OK with a customer using a legal product like a vaporizer in his or her establishment, then it should be allowed. He also said the policy could have unintended consequences because some people use vaping products as an alternative to cigarettes.
“Maybe this is an option for them to quit smoking,” Skillicorn said. “So this might actually deter people from quitting smoking.”
Link got his bill out of committee last week, but promised to bring back an amendment to hear from the vaping industry on other aspects of the bill.
Senate Bill 1864 is supported by the Illinois Public Health Association, Illinois State Medical Society, the American Lung Association in Illinois and other groups. Opponents included the Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, vape shop owners and dozens of individuals.
Matt Fortin owns Upper Limits, a vape shop in Springfield just a few blocks from the capitol. He said he’ll wait and see what transpires.
“Sen. Link seemed pretty willing to work with all sides to come up with legislation that works for both sides and we’re hoping that they come through on that,” he said.
But that’s just one of the issues that Fortin said has made this an interesting year for his industry.
“As a business owner, there’s a lot of scary things going on right now in Illinois, and it’s just sad to see,” Fortin said. “I truly love this state. I’ve been here a long, long time. It just hurts my heart to see the exodus going on and it’s going to continue with a lot of the legislation I’m seeing.”
As a retailer, he’s looking at proposed plastic bag tax and a tax on the products he sells, both of which are new taxes Gov. J.B. Pritzker has proposed to help balance his $38 billion proposed budget.
Lawmakers are also poised to prohibit adults younger than 21 from buying not just tobacco, but what Fortin sees as smoking cessation products like e-cigarettes. The combination of all that has added to uncertainty about the future for the business owner.
“It’s just sad to see, we’re trying to do so many good things and it’s just, Illinois has just not been kind to us,” Fortin said. “It makes it harder for us to want to stay in the state.”
Fortin said while most of his 14 employees make more than the minimum wage already, he can see how many small businesses would be hurt by the increase in the minimum wage law Pritzker signed last month. That law increases the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.25 in January and then up to $10 in the summer of 2020. It will then increase a dollar every January until it gets to $15 an hour in 2025.
The Senate could vote on the Tobacco 21 bill this week. That measure passed with simple majorities last year, but was vetoed by then Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. The Senate last year overrode Rauner’s veto, but it was never called for an override by the House.
The refiled bill could be called for a vote as early as Tuesday. It’s expected to pass in the Senate, but it’s unclear if the measure will be taken up by the House.
Discussions on increasing taxes on tobacco and vaping products are also expected in the weeks ahead.