Illinois Becomes Eleventh State in Nation to Increase Tobacco Selling Age to 21

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CHICAGO (WIFR) — Illinois became the first state in the Midwest to raise the buying age of nicotine products to 21 after Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation surrounded by public health advocates, medical providers and state legislators.

In a statement from the Governor's office, Pritzker said, “Today is a milestone day for the health of our communities and especially our young people. We are here today to raise the age to purchase tobacco to 21 in Illinois. This is action that’s supported by the surgeon general, the American Cancer Society, our own Illinois Department of Public Health, our local health departments, by all available research, every standing here and by common sense. For Illinois, it will reduce costs for our state, it will make our schools and communities healthier places to learn and live, and – most importantly – it will save lives. I am so proud to sign this legislation today.”

HB 345 covers both tobacco and vaping products, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and vapes. After four years of legislative effort and a veto by Gov. Rauner, lawmakers swiftly passed the Tobacco 21 bill mere weeks ago. The bill takes effect July 1, when Illinois and Virginia will become the eighth and ninth states to implement the legislation.

“This overdue change for the better is happening because JB Pritzker is governor. I applaud him for doing the right thing and signing the legislation we've all worked so hard to pass,” said Senate President John J. Cullerton. “This will make a difference. It will save lives. I look forward to continuing this collaborative process with the governor as we move on to tackle other issues and make Illinois better.”

“Today represents the culmination of years of dedication and hard work from health advocates and lawmakers who were relentless in their fight to protect teen health,” said Sen. Julie Morrison. “Raising the age has been proven to reduce smoking rates among young teenagers who are susceptible to the impact of nicotine on the brain and have a strong chance of beginning a lifelong deadly habit.”

“Often, we only think of the 18, 19 and 20-year olds being affected by this law, but actually the target age group is the 14-17-year olds. One of the points of this legislation is to remove the 18-year-old supplier from the high schools,” said Rep. Camille Lilly. “This legislation will reduce youth tobacco use in Illinois by at least 25% over time. I thank Governor Pritzker for signing Tobacco 21 today.”

“Our children must never be counted as part of tobacco companies’ bottom lines,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Chicago raised the age to purchase tobacco to 21 and teen smoking dropped to a record low of six percent, proving this public health strategy helps stop addiction and save lives.”

“Today, Illinois made history. Thanks to Governor Pritzker’s action, we’re now the very first ‘tobacco 21’ state in the Midwest,” said representatives from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Respiratory Health Association. “For decades, Illinois has made great strides in tobacco control, and this new law is a promising step on our way to eliminating tobacco’s burden on our communities. Fewer kids will have access to tobacco products through older friends and siblings, making them less likely to ever develop an addiction. That means fewer lives lost to tobacco-related cancers and illnesses, and more young people leading full and healthy lives. This wouldn’t have been possible without the determination of our lawmakers, fellow advocates and volunteers. We’re grateful to Governor Pritzker for seeing this bill through until the end and signing it into law today.”

Shana Crews with the American Cancer Society, Kathy Drea with the American Lung Association, Julie Mirostaw with the American Heart Association and Matt Maloney with the Respiratory Health Association joined the governor at the bill signing ceremony at Mile Square Health Clinic in Chicago.