The Illinois House last week approved legislation that will raise the minimum age for tobacco sales in Illinois from 18-years-old to 21, and fines those for caught violating the law. It now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
“Science shows that if we can stop kids from trying that first cigarette while they’re a teenager, then there is an overwhelming likelihood they’ll never start smoking,” said Maggie Osborne, Illinois grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society. “The reality is that an incredible 95 percent of adult smokers started using tobacco before age 21.”
Tobacco companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars marketing their products in Illinois, “luring our kids to start smoking and undoing the progress we’ve made in cutting youth tobacco use,” Osborne said.
Only a few states have passed similar laws. If approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker, Illinois would be the first state in the Midwest. Earlier this year the Cook County Board voted to raise the minimum age of the sale for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21-years-old.
Tobacco remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and the world. Tobacco use is a major factor in four out of the five leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and stroke. It causes about a third of heart disease and cancer, and most emphysema, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Respiratory Health Association estimates that each year tobacco use costs Illinois $1.9 billion in Medicaid spending alone.