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Tobacco Purchase Age In Illinois Going From 18 To 21 This Summer

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Flickr.com/number657 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tobacco sales in Illinois will soon be off-limits to anyone younger than 21 under a law signed Sunday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The “Tobacco 21” legislation will prohibit the sale of any tobacco product — including e-cigarettes — to anyone under age 21, up from the current limit of 18.

But State Rep. Camille Lilly, a Democrat from Chicago, says the real targets of the law are not those 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds.

“The real target is the 14- through 17-year-olds,” Lilly said. “We are really trying to make sure that those individuals — the 18-year-olds — [are] no longer the suppliers for this particular product.”

Late last year the U.S. Surgeon General said e-cigarette use among young people was increasing at a rate of “epidemic proportions.”

“We’re dealing with an old problem in a new form,” Pritzker said at a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago. “And while all our residents have the right to make this choice for themselves, we need to be realistic about what this choice means for our young people. Many are risking a lifetime addiction before being able to make an informed choice.”

The law will also eliminate the penalty for minors found in possession of tobacco — shifting the burden onto businesses that sell tobacco and e-cigarettes.

The Tobacco 21 law goes into effect July 1st.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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