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Push to Raise Smoking Age Heads to Rauner's Desk


Tuesday, June 5, 2018   

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A bill headed for Gov. Bruce Rauner's desk would make Illinois the sixth state in the country to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Senate Bill 2332 narrowly passed the Illinois House last week after an initial failed effort. Opponents, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, claim the state could lose millions of dollars in tax revenue, which would then go to other states.

However, Kevin O'Flaherty, director of advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, says the increase will lead to a healthier population over time.

"The research does show that this will be effective, and over time we will see significant reductions in smoking among the entire population as well," he says.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90 percent of smokers tried their first cigarette by age 18.

O'Flaherty also points to other studies by the American Lung Association, which estimates boosting the legal age to buy tobacco by those three years would result in a 25-percent drop in smoking rates among teens ages 14 to 17.

"It's not designed to force current smokers, even 19- and 20-year-olds, really to quit," he notes. "It's about preventing today's younger students, 15- to 17-year-olds and those younger than that as they age up, from having easy access to tobacco products as they do now."

More than 20 municipalities in Illinois had already raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21, but the requirement will be statewide if Rauner signs the bill into law.

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