Chicago Leaders Offer Strong… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Chicago Leaders Offer Strong Proposals to Curb Tobacco Use & Save Lives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 13, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – The city of Chicago continues to demonstrate outstanding leadership in the fight against tobacco use with today’s introduction of several strong measures, including an increase in the city’s tobacco sale age to 21. The City Council should approve these proposals and seize this opportunity to protect children, improve health, and save lives and health care dollars.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Health Commissioner Julie Morita announced the legislative package that also includes taxes on non-cigarette tobacco products (cigars, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco) and a minimum pricing policy to combat tobacco industry discounts that lure more customers, especially price-sensitive youth. These proposals will make these products less accessible and appealing to youth and complement Chicago’s high cigarette tax, which has helped to reduce youth smoking.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will help reduce tobacco use among youth and young adults – age groups when nearly all tobacco use begins and that are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. Nationally, we know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. Raising the age of sale to 21 will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. There is growing momentum nationwide to raise the tobacco sale age to 21, with the state of Hawaii and at least 115 cities and counties having enacted such laws.

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.

Mayor Emanuel has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting Chicago’s kids from the scourge of tobacco, the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death. Chicago’s high school smoking rate fell to a record low of just 10.7 percent in 2013, a stunning decline of nearly 60 percent since 2001.

Under Mayor Emanuel, Chicago has aggressively implemented proven strategies to reduce tobacco use, including increasing the city’s cigarette tax; strengthening the comprehensive smoke-free air law to include electronic cigarettes; restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol-flavored cigarettes, near schools; and conducting strong public education campaigns.

We applaud Chicago’s leaders – led by Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Morita – and look forward to Chicago taking additional steps to help make the next generation tobacco-free.