Tobacco 21 in Illinois

Raising the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products from 18 to 21, or Tobacco 21, is a fast growing, nationally recognized youth tobacco prevention strategy. Almost all smokers begin smoking by age 21. By getting young people past that critical threshold for brain development and addiction, we can dramatically lower the number of people who start smoking and become addicted to smoking. This will lower smoking rates, prevent disease and save long-term health care costs. California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon have enacted statewide Tobacco 21 laws.

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Tobacco 21 Efforts in Illinois

  • Lake County First to Enact Tobacco 21

    Board members approve a change to Lake County’s tobacco ordinance increasing the legal sales age to 21 for the purchase of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in unincorporated areas of the county. The vote receives broad support amongst the 21-member board at their September 12, 2017 meeting. The change goes..Read More

  • Buffalo Grove Adopts Tobacco 21

    Village trustees of Buffalo Grove vote 3-2 to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 at their August 21, 2017 meeting, making Buffalo Grove the 11th municipality in Illinois to adopt Tobacco 21. The ordinance takes effect in February 2018.

  • Berwyn Enacts Tobacco 21

    The Village of Berwyn adopts a Tobacco 21 ordinance at their July 25, 2017 meeting, raising the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.

  • Vernon Hills Passes Tobacco 21

    The Village of Vernon Hills votes unanimously to raise the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21 at its July 5, 2017 Board of Trustees meeting. The ordinance goes into effect on August 1, 2017.

  • Lincolnshire Adopts Tobacco 21

    With a unanimous decision, Lincolnshire trustees increase the tobacco sales age from 18 to 21 after hearing from officials at the Lake County Health Department present their “Tobacco 21” initiative. The vote takes place at their June 12, 2017 meeting and the ordinance goes into effect immediately.

  • Maywood Enacts Tobacco 21

    On May 2, 2017, the Maywood Board of Trustees, based on testimony by RHA and other members of the Proviso Partners for Health coalition, votes unanimously to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21, effective immediately. With strong support from Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H), a multi-sector coalition comprised of..Read More

  • Deerfield Raises Tobacco Purchase Age

    The Village of Deerfield Board of Trustees approves an ordinance to raise the tobacco purchase age to 21. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2017.

  • RHA Formalizes Commitment to Legislative Advocacy

    RHA formalizes its organizational commitment to play an active role in legislative advocacy as a means of achieving the prevention and control of lung disease. Eventually RHA would play a significant role in many legislative advocacy efforts, including protection of federal and state clean air legislation and the passage of..Read More


Community-based Tobacco 21 ordinances are important building blocks toward a statewide Tobacco 21 law. These local laws raise awareness and build support across the state.

The communities of Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnshire, Maywood, Naperville, Oak Park and Vernon Hills have enacted Tobacco 21 ordinances and Lake County is the first in Illinois to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco in its unincorporated areas. More than 260 communities and counties nationwide have already adopted Tobacco 21.

Local support is a key component of getting a Tobacco 21 ordinance passed. RHA staff work to educate elected officials about preventing tobacco use. When residents like you voice support for Tobacco 21 with your community leaders, the wheels turn much faster. Conversations with local police, public health department staff, and school officials have also proven helpful.

Find out if Tobacco 21 efforts are happening in your community by contacting Matt Maloney, Director of Health Policy, via email at or by phone, 312-628-0223.


House Bill 4297/Senate Bill 2332 – Tobacco 21

Original Sponsors: State Representative Camille Lilly and State Senator Julie Morrison

RHA has worked actively for the past several years to enact a statewide Tobacco 21 law. Legislation has been reintroduced in the Illinois House and Senate to raise the age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 years to 21. Get the House bill’s current status and the Senate bill’s current status.

Sign up to receive action alerts and we’ll notify you when legislators are working on the Tobacco 21 bill. We’ll provide talking points; you can send an email, write a letter or call your legislator’s office to share your support. Plan to attend RHA’s State Lung Health Education Day in the spring.


The age of 21 is important for prevention.

  • 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21.
  • Age 18-21 is when most smokers transition from experimental smoking to regular smoking.
  • The majority of underage tobacco users get their tobacco from a peer; however, 90 percent of those suppliers are themselves under the age of 21. Drawing the line at 21 gets legal tobacco purchasers out of high schoolers’ social circles.

Tobacco 21 saves lives and improves health.

  • In Illinois, 11,000 teens become new smokers each year; if these rates persist, 230,000 Illinois teens alive today will die prematurely from smoking.
  • The Institute of Medicine projects that Tobacco 21 could reduce overall smoking by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers become adults; the biggest declines in tobacco use would be seen among 15-17 year olds (25%) and 18-20 year olds (15%).
  • Tobacco 21 would immediately improve community health by reducing inflammation, improving immune function, and reducing premature births and SIDS.

The economic impact of Tobacco 21 could be enormous.

  • Each year, tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity. The costs of tobacco use ultimately trickle down to Illinois consumers to the tune of $982 per household each year.
  • Economists project that nationally, Tobacco 21 could save $212 billion in medical costs.
  • The impact of Tobacco 21 on retail sales would be minimal since the 18-21 year old age group only accounts for 2 percent of overall tobacco sales.

Download RHA’s Tobacco 21 Fact Sheet for additional statistics and citations. Visit the Tobacco section of our Library for more resources.

Other Important Tobacco Control Initiatives

High-tech tax stamps will help reduce theft of tobacco products and increasing tobacco taxes reduces smoking rates. Policies to reduce secondhand smoke exposure are good for everyone, but particularly for those with lung health diseases.

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Join our E-Advocacy Team and receive Action Alerts about current policy change efforts.

Become an Advocacy Champion to share your personal story with lung disease with lawmakers.

Health Professionals for Healthy Lungs engages health providers across Illinois in advocacy for sound health care and clean policy.


For more information about these policy initiatives, contact Matt Maloney, Director of Health Policy, via email at or by phone at (312) 628-0233.