Tobacco 21 Fact Sheet

Download the Tobacco 21 Fact Sheet.


TOBACCO 21 – The initiative to raise the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21

Current tobacco use trends are driving new prevention strategies

  • In Illinois, 6,300 teens become new daily smokers each year.1
  • In suburban Cook County, 29 percent of high school seniors use tobacco products.2
  • While great strides have been made in tobacco prevention, declines in tobacco use rates have slowed and products like cigarillos, hookah, and e-cigarettes are now used at double the rate of cigarettes.2
  • Reducing teens’ access to tobacco products is a proven means to reduce current use and prevent initiation.

The age of 21 is important for prevention

  • 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21.3
  • The majority of underage tobacco users get their tobacco from a peer; however, 90 percent of those suppliers are themselves under the age of 21.4
  • Drawing the line at 21 gets legal tobacco purchasers out of high schoolers’ social circles.

Tobacco 21 saves lives and improves health

  • 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%).5
  • 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

  • Economists project that nationally, Tobacco 21 could save $212 billion in medical costs.6
  • Each year, tobacco use costs Illinois $5.49 billion in health care costs and $5.27 billion in lost productivity.1
  • 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.7

Tobacco 21 enjoys broad support across Illinois and the U.S., even from smokers!

  • A 2015 CDC study found that 75 percent of adults support Tobacco 21, including 70 percent of current smokers.8 A recent study also found that 68 percent of 18-24 year olds would support Tobacco 21.9
  • More than 220 cities across 16 states, plus the states of California and Hawaii, have enacted Tobacco 21.10
  • In Illinois, Tobacco 21 has already been adopted by Evanston, Chicago, Oak Park, Highland Park, Naperville, Deerfield and Maywood, and is being considered by dozens more communities.


1 Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. (2017). The Toll of Tobacco in Illinois. Available at

2 University of Illinois, Center for Prevention Research & Development. (2016). Illinois Youth Survey. Available at

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Youth and Tobacco Use [fact sheet]. Available at

4 Berman, M., Crane, R., Hemmerich, N. (2015). Running the Numbers – Raising the minimum tobacco sales age to 21 will reduce tobacco use and improve public health in Franklin County, Ohio. The Ohio State University, College of Public Health, Columbus, OH.

5 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2015) Public Health Implications of Raising the Minimum Age of Legal Access to Tobacco Products. Available at

6 Counter Tobacco. (2015). Raising the Minimum Legal Sale Age to 21 [fact sheet]. Available at

7 Winickoff, J.P., Hartman, L., Chen, M.L., Gottlieb, M., Nabi, E., DiFranza, J. (2014). Minimum Retail Impact of Raising Tobacco Sales Age to 21. Am J Pub Health, 104(11): e18-e21.

8 King, B.A., Jama, A.O., Marynak, K.L., Promoff, G.R. (2015). Attitudes toward raising the minimum age of sale for tobacco among U.S. adults. Am J Prev Med, 49(4):583-588.

9 Morain, S.R., Winickoff, J.P., Mello, M.M. (2016). Have Tobacco 21 Laws Come of Age? N Engl J Med, 374: 1601-1604.

10 Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids. (2017). States and Localities that have Raised the Minimum Legal Sale Age for Tobacco Products to 21. Available at