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Senate Snuffs Out Teen Smoking Ben

Amanda Vinicky

A state senator's attempt to snuff-out youth smoking fell short when it came up for a vote Thursday.

Sen. John Mulroe, D-Chicago, wants to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 "to prevent tobacco-related disease and death."

Senator Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat, says she used to smoke.

But not anymore. She lost both of her parents to smoking; her mom from emphysema.

"The last words she said were, please, please quit smoking,'" she said.

But critics say if an18 is old enough to join the military and to vote, it's old enough for someone to make a personal choice about whether they want to buy cigarettes, without government interference.

Sen. Dan McConchie, a Republican from McHenry County, says it doesn't make sense to block teenagers from buying tobacco when they're allowed to join the military.

"Be put into harm's way and potentially even die for their country ... my concern is that if we are going to be willing to allow for individuals to make life or death decisions in certain aspects of their life, I think that we should be really essentially be able to do that across the board," he said.

Supporters say making it illegal to sell cigarettes to young adults might keep them from picking up the habit - potentially saving their lives.

Although the Illinois Senate Thursday extinguished the proposal, Mulroe says he plans to try again.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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