Illinois Senate approves Tobacco 21, sends bill to governor

Raising age to buy tobacco to 21 in Illinois

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Lawmakers in Illinois are taking a step towards raising the age to legally buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

On March 14, 2019, the Illinois Senate passed House Bill 345 that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from buying or possessing tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and alternative nicotine products.

The bill passed the senate with a vote of 39 to 16.

Advocates of the bill say it would reduce overall smoking rates. National data shows that about 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. Studies suggest increasing the tobacco age to 21 would keep young people from ever starting to smoke.

Opponents of Tobacco 21, like the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, believe it would encourage those under 21 to buy cigarettes from non-licensed vendors or neighboring states.

The co-owner of Mixing-It-Up Vape Shop in Metropolis worries if the legislation passes it would push business elsewhere.

“The more you push someone not to do it the more they want to do it," Letitia Brazell said. "That’s just human behavior, they’ll get their vape if they have to cross the bridge to get that, or go to another state you know Missouri will get that sales revenue, Kentucky will get that revenue that we are going to lose.”

Opponents also argue Illinoisans are adults at 18 under state and federal laws. They can vote, serve in the military, and get married.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. J.B. Prtizker. A spokesperson for the governor said he’s “looking forward to reviewing the legislation.”

Last year, both chambers passed a Tobacco 21 bill.

However, Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure, saying it wouldn’t stop people from smoking.

More than 30 communities in Illinois have passed Tobacco 21 ordinances.

As of March 1, 2019 seven states - California, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia, have raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21. The measure now moves to the state Senate.

Copyright 2019 KFVS. All rights reserved.