Illinois to vote on raising minimum tobacco age to 21

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The Illinois Senate will have a new bill put forward that proposes to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

This comes after the Senate Public Health Committee voted 6-2 on Tuesday, February 6, to send the proposed changes to SB2332 to the floor.

According to Dr. Sarah Patrick from the Jackson County Public Health Department, this measure is aimed at lowering the total number of smoke-related health risks across all age groups.

"There's evidence that this works to reduce the use of tobacco not just in those 18 to 21-year-olds, but by the time someone turns 21 then they're less likely to use later on," she said.

She said the use of tobacco products in this age group is detrimental to brain development and the bill hopes to aid this area of public health as well.

While we can all say the use of tobacco is not beneficial to one's health, some people make arguments that if you're legally recognized as an adult at the age of 18 with the ability to do things like vote and enlist in the military, you should be allowed to smoke.

One of those people is Jason Smith, the owner of 618 Vape in Carbondale, an E-Cigarette shop, who is worried that a bill like this could do a number to his business.

The business owner said he gets a lot of customers from this age group in his store, mostly due to its location right next to Southern Illinois University. While he does agree with the concerns of tobacco and e-cigarette products falling into the hands of minors, he believes the responsibility of keeping them out of schools should be on the seller.

"What a lot of us shops what we have to do personally is we have to card harder, we have to work harder, we have to protect these kids," he said.

In the end, Dr. Patrick believes this bill won't just save lives but money to the state as well. Saying over $2 billion is spent every year in Medicaid costs for treatment of tobacco-related diseases.

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