Donald E. Stephens Convention Center officials feel action taken by the state legislature last weekend will now allow them to book an even greater number of conventions at the Rosemont expo hall.
Illinois legislators approved an amendment lifting the state’s smoking ban to allow tobacco and tobacco product conventions to take place at the convention center on River Road.
The measure, introduced by State Rep. Mike McAuliffe (R-20th), exempts the facility from the Smoke Free Illinois Act that prohibits smoking in public places. The exemption runs through October 2015.
“This amendment will allow us flexibility to book tobacco and tobacco product shows,” said convention center Executive Director Christopher Stephens on Monday. “We’ve had a lot of interest over the years from both trade and public shows in this industry, but we have been unable to book them due to the ban.
“Without this amendment we would not have the ability to book businesses involved in this industry,” Stephens said. “It is a big industry. For instance, the Big Smoke, a large convention run by the cigar industry, was interested in having a convention here, but because of the ban we were unable to book them. Now we have the ability to do so.”
In introducing the amendment, McAuliffe said lifting the statewide smoking ban for the convention center would bring jobs to the area and encourage economic activity.
“We’ve definitely seen business picking up this year,” Stephens said. “Without this amendment we would not have the ability to book these shows. Now, we may be able to book a tobacco and tobacco products show in 2015.”
One of the conventions that may land in Rosemont would be the Tobacco Plus Convenience Expo, which drew about 4,000 people to its annual meeting in Las Vegas last January, officials note.
Industry officials say smoking is part of the expo, which is limited to distributors, wholesalers, retailers and other people in the industry.
Village officials said the conventions will be good for Rosemont in filling hotel rooms and benefitting the community overall economically.
Basically, the exemption amends the Smoke Free Illinois Act with regard to the list of areas that are exempted from the Act. It adds the Stephens center to the exemption list during the time the meeting or trade show is occurring.
Stephens also noted he has not heard of any pushback concerning tobacco shows from convention employees.