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The ban man: A look at decades of Ald. Burke’s proposed bans

Ald. Ed Burke has proposed many bans during his career. | Sun-Times file photos

During nearly five decades on the City Council, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) has wielded his legislative heft against dozens of products and policies — many related to his crusade against smoking and nicotine — that he saw as a detriment to the quality of life of Chicago residents.

Burke — whose City Hall and ward offices were raided by the FBI on Thursday — has often seized on a headline-grabbing issue, calling for its banishment from Chicago, only to have the proposal languish and die. Some of Burke’s most notable crusades include:


1971: To protect Chicago’s water supply, Burke champions a ban on phosphate-laden laundry detergents, which can produce algae and choke lakes and rivers. In 2007, Burke called for hearings to find out why the ban was not being enforced.

Spray paint

1992: Burke sponsors a proposed ban on the sale of spray paint in Chicago, citing the city’s rash of graffiti. The measure passed and remains in place; in 2018, Burke and Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) raised the idea of relaxing the ban.

Indoor smoking

1994: Burke — whose father, a former alderman, died of lung cancer — proposes a ban that would make it illegal to smoke cigarettes everywhere but in homes, vehicles and bars that serve just pretzels. The state banned smoking in public, except for in designated areas, in 1990.

Smoking near building entrances

2000: A proposal to ban smoking within 25 feet of building entrances is spearheaded by Burke. In 2008, Illinois passed a law requiring all smoking take place at least 15 feet from building entrances.

2005: The City Council passes an ordinance that banned smoking in virtually all indoor places, including bars and restaurants.

Smoking by 18-year-olds

2005: Burke proposes raising the legal smoking age in Chicago from 18 to 19. The minimum age to buy tobacco products in Chicago was raised to 21 in 2016.

Pot-flavored candy

2005: At Burke’s behest, the city banned the sale of marijuana-flavored candy.

Meat treated with CO

2006: Burke sponsored a proposal that would ban Chicago grocers from selling meat treated with carbon monoxide to make it appear more fresh.

Smoking in cars with kids

2006: Burke proposed banning drivers from smoking in their vehicles if there are children younger than 8 years old inside.

Trans fats

2006: A measure introduced by Burke sought to ban restaurants with more than $20 million in annual revenue from serving food prepared with unhealthy cooking oils.

Cocaine Energy Drink | Sun-Times files
Cocaine Energy Drink | Sun-Times files

Cocaine energy drink

2007: Joined by former Ald. Billy Ocasio (26th) and Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th), Burke proposes banning any energy drink sold under the brand name “Cocaine.”

Texting while driving

2008: Burke called for a ban on texting while driving within city limits. The measure updated a 2005 ordinance banning cellphone use while driving, unless using a hands-free device.

Hard plastic knives

2010: Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) and Burke push to ban the sale of “metal hard” plastic knives — weapons that can get past metal detectors.

Bath salts

2012: Burke proposes a ban on synthetic stimulants — “bath salts” — that mirror the effects of cocaine, Ecstasy and methamphetamines. It passed.

Guns at bars

2013: In the wake of Illinois’ new concealed-carry law, Burke proposed banning guns in establishments that serve alcohol.

High-caffeine energy drinks

2013: Burke proposes a ban on high-caffeine energy drinks. The ban would have defined energy drinks as “a canned or bottled beverage which contains an amount of caffeine exceeding or equal to 180 milligrams-per-container and containing Taurine or Guarana.”

Two horse-drawn carriages wait along Pierson St., near Michigan Ave. l Keith Hale~Sun-Times
Two horse-drawn carriages wait along Pierson St., near Michigan Ave. l Keith Hale~Sun-Times
Sun-Times file

Horse-drawn carriages

2014: A Burke proposal sought to ban Chicago’s horse-drawn carriages, citing cruelty toward the animals.

Powdered booze

2015: Burke proposed the ban of sales of powdered alcohol in Chicago before it is even available for purchase.

Driverless rideshare cars

2016: As rideshare services became more and more popular, Burke proposed banning driverless Uber and Lyft vehicles in Chicago after Uber tested self-driving cars for the general public in Pittsburgh.

Mets third baseman Juan Uribe uses chewing tobacco during batting practice in this file photo. | AP Photo/Joe Skipper
Mets third baseman Juan Uribe uses chewing tobacco during batting practice in this file photo. | AP Photo/Joe Skipper

Chewing tobacco at baseball games

2016: Burke proposes banning the use of smokeless chewing tobacco at Cubs and White Sox home games. The ban — which also applies to all players — took effect that season.

Cashless businesses

2017: Burke proposed that city-licensed businesses be banned from refusing cash payments for goods and services.

Flavored e-cigarettes

2018: Burke, citing a surge in use by middle and high school students, proposed banning the sale of flavored nicotine vapor in Chicago. In 2014, Burke sought measures to regulate the sale of liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes.

Body armor

2018: With Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Burke sponsors a proposed ban on the sale of body armor to civilians after the murder of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer. Shomari Legghette, charged in Bauer’s death, wore body armor when he allegedly killed Bauer outside the Thompson Center in February.