SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois House committee Tuesday approved a ban on flavored cigar wraps despite concern from lawmakers that it unfairly favors one company over another.

SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois House committee Tuesday approved a ban on flavored cigar wraps despite concern from lawmakers that it unfairly favors one company over another.


The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, said such products are marketed to children and are used mostly with illegal drugs.


“It is hard to imagine that it’s not marketed to young adults or children when you have flavors like cotton candy and chocolate chip,” Reboletti said.


The bill pairs the cigar-wrap ban with stronger language on heroin use.


State law currently prohibits probation, periodic imprisonment or conditional discharge if a convicted heroin user is caught with more than five grams of the drug. The legislation lowers that threshold to three grams.


Tony Abboud, a lobbyist for National Tobacco, said the two provisions were combined for political convenience, because similar bans on flavored cigar wraps have failed twice already.


Abboud said the bill is anti-competitive. National Tobacco makes chocolate chip and cotton candy flavored cigar wraps, while other flavors, such as  menthol and tobacco, are specifically exempted. National Tobacco’s competitor, Republic Tobacco, makes those flavors.


“If you believe it is drug paraphernalia, why in the world would you leave unflavored wraps on the market?” Abboud said. “It is entirely and inherently inconsistent.”


Abboud also noted that, other than market share, there’s no real difference between flavored cigar wraps and flavored cigars and cigarillos, which are untouched by the bill.


Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said the menthol and tobacco-flavor exemptions were requested by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which pointed out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on flavored cigarettes specifically exempts menthol and tobacco flavors.


David Thomas can be reached at (217) 782-6292.