Pro-vaping groups and small business owners held a press conference last week to share their opposition of possible legislation that would ban flavored liquids for e-cigarettes.
Victoria Vasconcellos, president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, said she smoked tobacco for 33 years before she quit with the help of vaping products.
"We're here to discuss the proposal of banning flavored vaping products," Vasconcellos said. "The unregulated black market poses a danger to the market. This bill will close over 7,000 small businesses in Illinois and it disenfranchises adult ex-smokers who had found a way out and will go back to Big Tobacco."
Tim Teml, owner of That 1 Vape in Joliet, said he smoked tobacco for 20 years before quitting, also with the help of vaping products.
"Flavored products work the best and I still use sweet flavors today," Teml said.
Teml said he tried lozenges, nicotine gum and quitting cold turkey, but always returned to tobacco smoking until he started using e-cigarettes.
Dan Reinke, the owner of 3D Vapor in Edwardsville, said he got into the business to help people.
"I want to give people hope," Reinke said. "That feels good. We've determined these [harmful] products are black-market cartridges and not related to our stores."
Reinke said he feared people will go back to traditional cigarettes or will begin making their own flavored liquids if the ban of flavored liquids comes to fruition.
"That can get dangerous if people don't know what they're doing," he said. "What we have is a black-market program and banning flavors will only make that problem worse."
Craig Kitson with 9-1-1 Vapor in Jacksonville, said those in the industry do not support minors using their products.
"We need regulatory action to keep products out of the hands of minors," Kitson said. "Children do not need our products. We need to work to get strict penalties for bad players. But banning is going to make this problem worse, not help."
Jon Sharp, the manager of Upper Limits in Springfield, spoke up over those saying that flavored liquids should not have the appearance of targeting children, such as bubblegum-flavored products.
"I've used bubblegum flavor — it's sweet and I like it," Sharp said. "It doesn't remind me of combustible tobacco and having something as far away from a cigarette flavor is what keeps you away from [cigarette] smoking."