Chicago Takes Bold Action To Reduce Tobacco Use: Raises Tobacco Age to 21, Makes Baseball Tobacco-Free

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mar. 16 2016

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WASHINGTON, DC – The Chicago City Council today has taken bold action to protect young people from tobacco addiction and save lives by approving multiple measures, including increasing the city’s tobacco sale age to 21 and eliminating smokeless tobacco use at sporting events – including at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Cubs and White Sox. With these actions, Chicago continues to provide national leadership in the fight against tobacco use, the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death. These measures will protect children, improve health, and save lives and health care dollars.

Other key elements of the package establish taxes on non-cigarette tobacco products (cigars, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco) and prohibit the redemption of coupons on tobacco products. These measures will make tobacco products less accessible and appealing to youth and complement Chicago’s high cigarette tax, which has helped to reduce youth smoking.

Separately, the City Council also voted to make Chicago the first Midwest city to take tobacco out of baseball. The Council approved legislation introduced by Alderman Edward Burke that eliminates smokeless tobacco use in professional and amateur sporting events – including at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago joins San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles in taking tobacco out of baseball, providing a significant boost to the national campaign to make all of baseball tobacco-free. Chicago’s leaders rightly recognize that our national pastime should be about promoting a healthy and active lifestyle, not a deadly and addictive product.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups heavily targeted by the tobacco industry – and also keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. Nationally, we know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. There is growing momentum nationwide to raise the tobacco sale age to 21, with the state of Hawaii and at least 135 cities and counties having enacted such laws. The state of California passed similar legislation last week that awaits the governor’s signature to become law. The Chicago legislation also shifts the penalties from the youth who use tobacco onto the sellers of the products.

The tobacco tax and pricing proposals are based on decades of scientific evidence as well. We know that increasing the price of tobacco products is one of the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use, especially among kids. The new proposals will discourage kids from using tobacco and encourage tobacco users to quit.

Today is a truly historic day in Chicago when it comes to protecting kids from the dangers of tobacco use. We applaud Sen. Richard Durbin for his leadership in advocating for tobacco-free baseball. We also support Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council for doing their part to bring about the first tobacco-free generation.

 

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