Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday tried to salvage his plan to ban e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited and snuff out sales to minors by framing it as a battle to protect Chicago’s children.
One day after his crackdown on electronic cigarettes went up in smoke — at least temporarily — amid a surprise outpouring of aldermanic opposition, Emanuel portrayed the battle as good vs. evil.
Wearing the black hats, according to the mayor, are Big Tobacco, its high-powered lobbyists and the aldermen who are falling prey to their arguments that e-cigarettes are not dangerous and merely a tool that adults use to quit smoking.
Emanuel portrayed himself and Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair — whom he called “my Poncho to this Don Quixote” effort — as the good guys wearing the white hats. According to the mayor, they’re trying desperately to cut off access to gateway products like e-cigarettes, menthol and flavored tobacco products used to lure children into a lifetime addiction to smoking.
“A lot of people thought we were nuts to do this — that this should be left to the FDA and let them handle this. [But] I want a message to be heard by Big Tobacco: This is a city of big shoulders and you’re not welcome. Our kids are not for you,” the mayor said.
“I’m not gonna mince words. They get ’em hooked. And then they become smokers. . . . And we pick up all of the public health costs.”