Elk Grove Village mayor wants total tobacco sales ban

Elk Grove Village may prohibit stores from selling tobacco to residents under age 21 or even ban sales of the products altogether.

If it takes the latter step, the village would be one of the first, if not the only, local government in the country to ban tobacco sales. Chicago and some other suburbs have already raised the minimum age, including Naperville, Lincolnshire and Buffalo Grove. Lake County has increased the age in unincorporated areas.

Mayor Craig Johnson said he wants to ban tobacco sales to protect the health of residents.

"It's pretty hypocritical for government to allow the only product that if used as directed is guaranteed to harm you," Johnson said.

If history is any indication, either proposal will likely face a fight. In 2006, the village banned smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, but not before retailers, gas companies and even the president of Thorntons Inc. showed up in opposition. A statewide ban went into effect in 2008.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which represents gas stations, grocery stores and other retailers, would oppose a local ban on tobacco sales.

"We have a legal product, and we want to sell that legal product and let people make a purchase if they want," said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel for the association.

Dawood argued a local ban on tobacco would not reduce the number of smokers but rather drive consumers to neighboring municipalities and decrease sales tax revenue for the village.

"If I were a resident, I would be concerned about how they are going to replace that money," she said.

Johnson said the village would not be hurt by the loss of tobacco tax revenues. In fact, the village could start a trend if trustees approve a tobacco sales ban, he said.

"It always takes the first one to get the ball rolling," Johnson said.

The village board is expected to determine dates for hearings on either a ban or raising the purchase age during its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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