Illinois House Tries to Ban Flavored Cigar Wrappers
SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois House committee Tuesday passed a bill banning the sale of flavored cigar wrappers while stiffening the penalty for selling heroin.
Critics, though, called it an “anti-competitive” bill that discriminates against some tobacco manufacturers. For political convenience, the measure is linked to a tough-on-crime bill, they say.
House Bill 3801 passed the committee, 9-1. It passed the Senate, 46-1, last week, and heads to the House.
The bill would ban the sale of flavored cigar wrappers, commonly known as blunt wraps, which some people use to smoke marijuana or other drugs, including heroin. Selling the wrappers would be a petty offense, carrying a $1,000 fine.
People convicted of selling three or more grams of heroin — it’s now five grams — will go to prison, under the bill.
The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, is a former prosecutor. Young people have been caught smoking cannabis in flavored blunt wraps, he said, and the “scourge of heroin” has to be fought, particularly in the Chicago suburbs.
With flavors such as cotton candy, chocolate chip and wild cherry, Reboletti said, “It’s hard to imagine that it’s not marketed for either young adults or children.
“These are marketed for people who use drugs. It’s easy to just open them up, put crack cocaine in there, put marijuana in there, put PCP in there.”
The bill includes an exemption for menthol-flavored wraps.
Tony Abboud, a lobbyist for the Louisville-based National Tobacco Co., a cigar wrap manufacturer, called the bill “anti-competitive.”
He said it favors companies that make the menthol wrappers. Abboud said 23 others states have considered and rejected similar bans on flavored wraps.
State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, cast the lone committee vote against the bill. Lang said it discriminates against some tobacco manufacturers and is ineffective because it targets 3 percent of the flavored cigar market by only banning flavored wraps, and not flavored cigars.
The heroin provision, he said, was added to compel lawmakers to vote for it, lest they be accused of appearing soft on crime.
“It seems to me that these two items — the heroin item and the blunt wrap item — are just wedded together for the convenience of certain people who are trying to pass the blunt-wrap item,” Lang said.