A new law makes Illinois the eighth state to raise the minimum age requirement to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Last year, the Illinois House and the Senate passed Tobacco 21, but Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed the legislation and the House was not able to override the veto. 2019 has been a different story, as support for the proposal grew from last year. Both the House and the Senate passed HB 345 with overwhelming majorities and on April 7, 2019, Governor JB Pritzker signed the legislation into law.
According to supporters of the legislation, 95% of tobacco users start before turning 21.
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.
Smoking cigarettes among youth had been steadily declining between 2011 and 2018. However, with the rising popularity of e-cigarettes, youth vaping has increased by 78% between 2017 and 2018, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Youths who use e-cigarettes are three-times more likely to start smoking. Starting July 1, 2019, anyone purchasing tobacco products must be 21 years or older. Tobacco products include cigarettes as well as vaping products.
The legislation makes it illegal to buy or sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, but the legislation does not make possession by anyone under the age of 21 illegal. Opponents of the legislation did not support this stripping of underage penalties for possession of cigarettes.
In the last few years, many units of local government in Illinois have taken it upon themselves to increase the age to buy tobacco products. Chicago adopted the increased minimum age to buy tobacco products in 2016. Peoria, West Chicago, Plainfield, and Cook County are among the local governments that had previously adopted Tobacco 21.
Tobacco 21 is not the only proposal aimed at tobacco products this year. In an effort to close a $3 billion structural deficit in Illinois, Governor Pritzker has proposed an increase in the cigarette tax as well as instituting a tax to the wholesale price of e-cigarettes. The administration has estimated these proposals will lead to approximately $65 million in revenue.