Decreasing youth tobacco use across Illinois

With the support of RHA and other organizations, State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) and State Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Oak Park) have introduced legislation to raise the minimum age for tobacco sales in Illinois from 18 to 21.

Known commonly as Tobacco 21, the effort aims to curb youth smoking, which will lead to fewer adult smokers in the future and result in substantial long-term health care savings.

“Statistics show that 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21,” said Matt Maloney, director of health policy for Respiratory Health Association. “By raising the age of sale for tobacco to 21, Illinois will greatly reduce smoking among high school children.”

“Our goal is to create the first smoke-free generation,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer of Respiratory Health Association. “Tobacco 21 gives us a great chance of making that happen.”

Each year in Illinois, 5700 teens under the age of 18 become new daily smokers. If these rates persist, 230,000 Illinois teens alive today will die prematurely from smoking.

The economic impact of smoking is staggering. Each year, tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity, according to research from the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. “By reducing youth smoking, we can make a meaningful change in the adult smoking rate and reduce these staggering costs,” said Africk.

Nearly 300 cities across 16 states, plus the states of California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Oregon have enacted Tobacco 21 laws. In Illinois, Tobacco 21 has been adopted by Evanston, Chicago, Oak Park, Deerfield, Highland Park, Naperville, Maywood, Lincolnshire, Vernon Hills, Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Mundelein, and unincorporated Lake County, and it is being considered by dozens more communities.

Public support for Tobacco 21 gives a big boost to this year’s legislative effort.  New polling data shows that 65 percent of registered Illinois voters support Tobacco 21. With your advocacy and support we can continue to gain ground.

To join our efforts to pass statewide Tobacco 21 and create a smoke-free generation, take a few clicks to email your local lawmakers.

Celebrating Tobacco 21 Success

Village of Maywood is recognized for raising tobacco purchase age.

RHA has presented the Village of Maywood with a Lung Health Champion award in recognition of its trailblazing Tobacco 21 ordinance. In May, the Village Board unanimously voted to raise the minimum legal age for tobacco product sales in the village from 18 to 21. The ordinance took effect immediately.

“Someone has to step up and take a stand and we, the village of Maywood have taken one… it’s to save a generation that’s coming behind us,” said Mayor Edwina Perkins at the time of enactment. The Institute of Medicine projects that Tobacco 21 could reduce overall smoking by 12 percent by the time today’s teenagers become adults.

It’s been a busy summer for Tobacco 21 advocates. In addition to Maywood, the villages of Berwyn, Buffalo Grove, Lincolnshire and Vernon Hills have adopted ordinances, bringing the total number of municipalities in Illinois to 11. This week, Lake County became the first in Illinois to raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic cigarettes to 21 in unincorporated areas of the county.

Want to bring a Tobacco 21 ordinance to your community? Contact Matt Maloney, RHA’s Director of Health Policy, via email at mmaloney@lungchicago.org or by phone at (312) 628-0233.

Tobacco 21 from Cook County Public Health on Vimeo.