The age to buy tobacco products in Illinois will officially be raised from 18 to 21 next week. Supporters say the move is aimed at stopping young people from starting a bad habit.
State Senator Julie Morrison (D, Deerfield) had called for raising the tobacco purchase age for years. Her father, who was a longtime smoker, died prematurely from lung cancer.
“Perhaps if we had had this bill passed 30 or 40 years ago," she told a crowd when the bill, nicknamed Tobacco 21, was signed in April, "my father would not have died at the age of 54, and I’m hoping we actually make a change in Illinois for everyone."
Research shows while teens are smoking fewer traditional cigarettes than in years past, more of them are turning to e-cigarettes, like the popular JUUL product. But the new purchase age law will apply to e-cigarettes too.
At the same time, companies like JUUL have fallen under increased scrutiny. Most recently, the San Francisco-based e-cigarette maker was shown the door in its own hometown. That city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a move banning e-cigarettes on Wednesday, though cigarette sales are still legal there.
State Rep. Camille Lilly (D, Chicago) sponsored Illinois' move to raise its purchasing age. She says it should help keep unhealthy products out of the hands of those who shouldn't be using them in the first place.
“As I’ve often said, it takes healthcare to make American better, and if you don’t have your health, you don’t have much else.” she said in April.
The age increase is just one of several changes smokers will soon be handed down from the state by next week. Among them is a dollar-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes themselves. That’s how Illinois plans to pay for part of the statewide construction plan Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign Friday.
He says despite the price increase, tobacco buyers know what they’re getting into.
“People who choose to smoke do so with an understanding of that choice and what it means for them, and for the most part, fewer people are choosing to smoke." Pritzker said during the April bill signing.
Adding to the increased e-cigarette scrutiny, the governor is expected to soon sign another bill that would require retailers to obtain separate state licensing if they sell those products.