Illinois Governor Vetoes Measure to… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Illinois Governor Vetoes Measure to Raise Tobacco Sale Age to 21, Forfeiting Opportunity to Save Lives, Help Kids

Statement by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, and American Lung Association
August 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto on Friday of legislation to raise Illinois’ tobacco sale age to 21 represents a terrible missed opportunity to protect young people from tobacco addiction and save lives. The main beneficiaries of his veto are tobacco companies that actively target young people as replacements for the more than 480,000 Americans their products kill each year.

While we applaud the lawmakers who supported this legislation for their strong leadership in fighting tobacco use, the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, we are extremely disappointed in Gov. Rauner for setting back these efforts. Bipartisan Tobacco 21 laws have been enacted by California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington D.C. and at least 340 localities, including New York City, Chicago, San Antonio, Boston, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis and both Kansas Cities.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will 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. We know that about 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21. We also know that tobacco companies spend $9.5 billion a year – more than $1 million every hour – to market their deadly and addictive products, much of it aimed at young people.

Increasing the tobacco age to 21 will also help counter the industry’s relentless efforts to target young people at a critical time when many move from experimenting with tobacco to regular smoking. It will also help keep tobacco out of high schools, where younger teens often obtain tobacco products from older students. A 2015 report by the National Academy of Medicine concluded that increasing the tobacco sale age to 21 would yield substantial public health benefits, with immediate and long-term benefits for the nation’s health.

Tobacco use kills over 480,000 Americans and costs the nation about $170 billion in health care bills each year. In Illinois, tobacco kills over 18,300 people and costs over $5.4 billion in health care expenses each year. Without additional action to reduce tobacco use, 230,000 kids alive today in Illinois will die prematurely from smoking. Increasing the tobacco age to 21 is a critical step in reducing and eventually eliminating tobacco’s terrible toll.